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US to punish foreign entities funding Venezuela's Maduro

The measure is the latest tightening of screws in Washington's campaign to force Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro from power.

Venezuela's President  Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech during a press conference to launch the international trading of oil-backed cryptocurrency called 'Petro' on 1 October 2018. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON, United States - The United States will impose sanctions on foreign institutions helping to finance embattled far-left Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, the White House said on Wednesday.

The measure, announced by President Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton, is the latest tightening of screws in Washington's campaign to force Maduro from power.

"The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network," Bolton said in a statement.

Trump is leading international pressure to have Maduro replaced by opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom Washington recognizes as the official interim president.

The government is already trying to cripple Maduro's access to finances via sanctions on state oil company PDVSA and handing control to Guaido of Venezuelan bank accounts in the United States.

More than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as interim president, but Maduro has powerful backing from Russia and China. He describes the US-led campaign against him as an imperialist plot to seize control of the oil-rich nation.

Years of hard left rule have transformed once thriving Venezuela into an economic basket case, with severe shortages of basic food and medicine.

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