Trump bars banks from buying Venezuela state bonds

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(CNN Money) — The White House announced Friday that President Trump has signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Venezuela.

The action bars U.S. citizens and banks from buying new bonds from the Venezuelan government or its state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA. The order also limits the trading of some existing bonds that are owned by Venezuela’s public sector.

“We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” the White House said in a statement.

The Treasury Department has already issued a wide range of sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his associates after he moved to consolidate power in July.

Related: Wall Street bank bans some Venezuelan bonds

Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Treasury Department froze all of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited all U.S. citizens from dealing with him.

A senior administrative official told reporters that the goal of Friday’s sanctions is to ensure the U.S. financial system isn’t “complicit” in the Maduro regime’s degradation of democracy.

Venezuelans who oppose the regime argue that when banks buy the government’s bonds, they extend a financial lifeline to a dictatorship.

This is the fourth round of sanctions that the federal government has enacted against Venezuela.

“It’s a strong message for the people of Venezuela and it’s a strong message to Maduro,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters at a briefing.

Earlier this month, one bank — Credit Suisse — banned its bond traders from buying two specific Venezuelan bonds from the government and from PDVSA, citing the country’s “political climate.”

The move came after Goldman Sachs was criticized for buying Venezuelan government bonds in May.

Under the executive order, the Treasury Department can still issue waivers to allow some bond transactions to proceed.

On August 12, Trump told reporters that a military option in Venezuela is on the table.

“We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option,” he said.

Venezuela is currently in crisis. Last month, Maduro’s government held a vote to replace the opposition-controlled National Assembly with an entirely new legislature filled with his supporters. Social unrest and violent protests have left more than 120 dead. The economy is also spiraling out of control, with rampant inflation that has caused severe shortages of food and medicine for the nation’s 30 million people.

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