July 18 (UPI) — The Trump administration is looking at a range of possible sanctions against Venezuela, including on oil imports, if President Nicholas Maduro presses forward with plans to create a constituent assembly capable of rewriting the Constitution, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
President Donald Trump on Monday threatened the Maduro regime with “strong and swift economic actions” if the government proceeds with plans to create the assembly July 30.
Senior administration officials spoke about potential measures in a call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. Though they offered few details, the officials said “all options are on the table” when questioned whether sanctions would be on individuals, larger organizations or oil imports to the United States.
“All options are being discussed and debated,” one official said. “Our options are robust.”
Though the Trump administration said it would not “shy away” from any economic actions on Venezuela, it is “mindful of any impact it would have on the American people, American jobs, the American economy,” the official said. “We will do our best to avoid” harmful effects on the United States.”
The administration is talking with countries in the region, in the European Union and in Asia “on coordinated efforts to make sure we’re applying the right amount of pressure on” the Maduro regime, an official said.
The United States may take unilateral actions, though, if deemed within national security interests.
The official said it’s possible they could take economic action against Venezuela before July 30.
On Sunday, about 7 million Venezuelans voted in a referendum, 98 percent saying they did not support the creation of a constituent assembly. A majority also said they demand security forces support the opposition-controlled National Assembly and Constitution, and that they want the country’s public institutions restored in accordance and presidential elections to be held before Maduro’s term ends in 2019 in accordance with the Constitution.
“Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator,” Trump said in a statement Monday. “The United States once again calls for free and fair elections and stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”
Officials said that though the Trump administration is attempting to secure the release of Utahn Josh Holt from a Venezuelan prison, his detention did not factor into the threats to sanction Venezuela.
“We’re all very concerned about Mr. Holt,” an administration official said. “We call again for him to be released immediately and unconditionally on humanitarian grounds.”