United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the US is considering a ban on the import and export of oil products from Venezuela. Tillerson said the US was discussing ways to raise the pressure on the Venezuelan government, which is planning to hold early presidential elections.
Tillerson told reporters on Sunday that sanctioning the oil, or prohibiting the sale of it to the US is something they continue to consider. Last year, the US government announced several sanctions against Venezuelan officials. A lot of the sanctions came after the Venezuelan government held its elections for the constituent assembly, a move that many say was done to keep Maduro in power.
An oil ban against Venezuela has been rumored in the past but the sanctions have only involved Venezuelan government officials. The oil ban remains one of the few options left to pressure Maduro and his political party, who plan to hold presidential elections by April.
Venezuela’s situation continues to get worse with the inflation estimated to go over 10,000 percent this year. The situation is tricky because it could put serious pressure on the Venezuelan government but also make things much worse for the country.
Last month, the European Union announced sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials. The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes. Sanctions from the US have also done the same against several officials.
Tillerson added that the situation is becoming dire in Venezuela and that not doing anything to bring this to an end is also asking the population to suffer for a much longer time. Venezuela’s oil production has fallen in recent years but estimates said a few months ago that the country is still producing around 1.7 million barrels a day.
In late January, the International Monetary Fund estimated that inflation could reach 13,000 percent this year. A previous estimate by a Venezuelan opposition official said that inflation could go over 10,000 percent. The opposition-led National Assembly said in early January that the country’s annual inflation was 2,616.
The Venezuelan government has announced that Maduro will be the presidential candidate for the upcoming elections. The announcement on the date is said to be coming soon but it has already been revealed that the elections will happen before the end of April. The US State Department has rejected the calls for an early presidential election, saying in a statement that they wouldn’t be free or fair.