President Donald Trump late Monday signed an executive order imposing a harsh, Cuba-style economic embargo on Venezuela as part of Washington’s broad push to force leader Nicolás Maduro out of power.
In a letter to Congress, Trump said the measure was necessary in light of Maduro’s “continued usurpation of power” and ongoing human rights abuses in the South American nation.
The new measures are expected to be announced Tuesday, as representatives from dozens of countries will be meeting in Peru to discuss the Venezuela crisis.
Washington has slapped more than 100 current and former Venezuelan officials with sanctions in recent years and has severely restricted Venezuelan oil and gold exports. But Monday’s measures put the country on par with Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea as being economically isolated by the United States.
The embargo carves out exceptions for food, clothing and other humanitarian aid being sent to Venezuela.
Venezuela has called the sanctions “economic warfare” and blames the measures for its hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. The United States and many independent observers, however, say it’s Venezuelan corruption and mismanagement that have gutted the economy.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been pushing for tougher measures, wrote on Twitter Monday night that the “U.S. will rightfully impose sanctions on any person or company in the world that does business with anyone in the #MaduroRegime.”
Venezuelan officials have been warning for weeks that Washington was preparing to turn the screws. On Friday the Maduro regime went before the United Nations’ Security Council to denounce an alleged U.S. threat to “impose a naval blockade on Venezuela.” And on Monday, Maduro ally Diosdado Cabello said Trump was planning an embargo because the Venezuelan people wouldn’t “submit to imperialism.”
The United States and more than 50 other nations recognize the head of Venezuela’s congress, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate president. The deep economic, political and social crisis has forced more than 4 million people to flee in recent years — the largest migratory crisis in the Western Hemisphere.
This story will be updated.