The Donald Trump government increased pressure on Nicolás Maduro and applied punishments to three people residing in Mexico and their respective companies.

AP –

Caracas.- The government of the president Donald trump pressure on the Venezuelan president increased on Thursday Nicolás Maduro, focusing on a route that he has used for the sale of crude oil through a close friend of the socialist leader who was recently imprisoned in Cape Verde.

Focusing particularly on individuals residing in Mexico, Treasury Department officials imposed penalties against three people and the companies they run. As of now, they are prohibited from doing business with United States or US citizens.

The strict financial measure is designed to prevent the Maduro government from accessing the money from the sale of crude oil, in a campaign led by United States to dismiss him and end the country’s historical political and economic crisis.

« Maduro’s illegitimate regime created a secret network to evade sanctions, and which has been exposed by the Treasury Department, » Treasury Undersecretary Justin G. Muzinich said in a statement. « The United States will continue to relentlessly pursue the sanctions evaders, who plunder Venezuela’s resources for their own benefit at the expense of the Venezuelan people. »

The financial measures do not have a direct impact on Maduro’s ally and Colombian citizen Alex Saab, whom the federal government of United States He has already filed formal charges and was arrested a few days ago. But the authorities claim that the penalties affect those close to Saab, accused of working to help the Venezuelan parastatal oil company PDVSA evade penalties of United States.

The news penalties They were directed against Saab’s close friend, Joaquín Leal, a Mexican citizen with knowledge of the world oil market. US officials accuse both men of selling Venezuelan crude under the screen of operating a « crude for food » program that never resulted in the delivery of food to Venezuela.

Leal worked with the companies Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group – both based in Mexico and also sanctioned – to negotiate the resale of more than 30 million barrels of crude oil in the name of PDVSA. The authorities of United States point out that this represented almost 40% of the crude oil exports of PDVSA during the month of April.

Olga María Zepeda and her mother, Verónica Esparza, were also sanctioned as co-owners of the two companies, officials reported.

Schlager Business Group, an administrative services company, had no previous experience in the oil sector, according to authorities. It was the object of penalties for allegedly entering the world of global crude oil on behalf of Venezuela and provide financial and technological support to PDVSA, indicated the federal federal authorities.

Libre Abordo is a company based in Mexico City dedicated to the sale of cleaning supplies, equipment for hospitals and agricultural products. He said he was bankrupt in May, but Treasury Department officials say the company resold more than 30 million barrels of Venezuelan crude. The company had no previous experience in the sector before negotiating an agreement that benefited PDVSAauthorities reported.

In July 2019, Libre Abordo signed two contracts with companies controlled by the government of Venezuela to supply corn and tank trucks to Venezuela. The Mexican company accepted payments in Venezuelan crude in a plan that, according to US authorities, was designed by Saab and senior Venezuelan official Tarek El Aissami.

These penalties join dozens more against Venezuela, including some on Maduro and his wife.

The Trump government launched its campaign to overthrow Maduro in early 2019, endorsing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. United States It is one of dozens of nations that claim that Maduro was re-elected in 2018 through fraudulent elections. Maduro still maintains the support of the army and international allies such as Russia, China, Iran and Turkey.

The crisis in Venezuela It has forced at least 5 million people to leave the country to escape massive inflation and a shortage of medicine and fuel.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that, despite the penalties, would be willing to sell gasoline to Venezuela for humanitarian reasons, in case the South American nation asked it to.

« Venezuela He has not made a request to us, but if it were a humanitarian need, we would, « said López Obrador during a visit to the state of Veracruz, with its coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. » We are free, Mexico is an independent, sovereign country, We make our own decisions and don’t mess with other countries’ policies. « 

Federal prosecutors formally charged Saab in Miami last year on money laundering charges in connection with an alleged bribery network that earned him more than $ 350 million from a social housing project for the Venezuelan government that was never built. In private, the US authorities point to Saab as Maduro’s names.

Saab was arrested on Friday while en route to Iran, which represents a severe blow to the Maduro government. Federal authorities believe he holds many secrets of how the Venezuelan leader, his family, and his top aides have allegedly stolen millions of dollars from government contracts amid a deep economic crisis in the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

It is unknown how it is that the US authorities, who had gone after the Colombian businessman for years, finally managed to stop him. Saab is being held on the West African island and his lawyer says he intends to dispute his extradition to United States.