Venezuelan Lawmaker Claims Gold Bars Loaded on Russian Mystery Plane

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announce economic sanctions against Venezuela and the Venezuelan state owned oil company

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announce economic sanctions against Venezuela and the Venezuelan state owned oil company

Sanctions announced on Monday by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, aimed at driving President Nicolas Maduro out of power after his contested re-election previous year, have barred PDVSA's U.S. customers from transferring payments to the firm.

Washington's fast action on Venezuela and efforts by Maduro's government to defend its grip on PDVSA have sent shock waves around the world, triggering higher global oil prices and angry responses from China and Russian Federation.

He said Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, Russia, the Vatican and several unnamed European countries wanted talks between him and the opposition.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has declared himself interim president.

Bolton, while announcing a new round of sanctions against Venezuela and its state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) at a press conference Monday, carried a notepad under his arm with the words scribbled on the top of a largely blank page.

The Trump administration had long held off targeting Venezuela's oil sector for fear that it would hurt USA refiners and raise oil prices for Americans.

Maduro, in turn, blasted the move as a coup staged by Washington and said he was severing diplomatic ties with the US.

Venezuela's disputed president Nicolas Maduro is holding firm in refusing to step down amid mounting political and global pressure, but said he is "willing to sit down" and negotiate with opposition leaders "for the sake of Venezuela's peace and its future".

The United States and a number of other countries, which disputed last year's re-election of Maduro, have recognized Guaido's leadership.

Speaking Jan.29 outside the National Assembly, Guaido said he was aware of personal risks. "The oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and therefore the money PDVSA earns from its export will now be returned to the people through their legitimate constitutional government".

"Let me reiterate. There will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido", Bolton said on Twitter.

Oil accounts for more than 90 per cent of Venezuela's export revenue.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that Guaido has the authority to take control of any Venezuelan government accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY or any other US-insured banks.

The strike aims to "demand that the armed forces side with the people" after bloody clashes following protests last week left more than 40 people dead and 850 incarcerated. Brent crude futures gained 88 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $62.20 a barrel. Refineries in China and India are the only ones that can process Venezuelan crude outside the U.S., Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow wrote in a note. Venezuela is among the world's largest heavy crude oil producers.

On Tuesday, Russia said it foresees that Venezuela will have problems repaying its debt, with Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak telling Russian media: "There will probably be problems ..."

The source also confirmed to Bloomberg that the 20 tonnes of gold, which is worth about $840 million, represents 20% of Venezuela's gold holdings that are being stored inside the county.

Bolton said he expects Monday's actions against PDVSA will result in more than $11 billion USA in lost export proceeds over the next year.

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