Ban on Venezuelan oil imports to US could unify the chavistas – US Senator

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Bob Corker, US Senate Foreign Relations Chairman

As US officials remain divided on the exact measures that should be taken against Venezuela should a July 30 vote that could strip lawmakers of their constitutional power, goes through, one Senator is warning that a ban on Venezuelan oil imports to the US could be counter-productive.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, said, “I believe there’s a crisis coming in Venezuela, and I think we need to be careful about not making ourselves the focus of that crisis…Sometimes what we do unifies the chavistas.”

Over the past few weeks, as the tough talk on Venezuela escalated, South Florida lawmakers have been uniformly behind a ban on Venezuelan oil imports to the United States, a drastic step that could deal a critical blow to Venezuela’s slumping oil industry.

According to the Miami Herald, the lawmakers seem convinced that the White House will do something drastic, going beyond the long-used tactic of issuing sanctions on individual Venezuelan government officials suspected of money laundering and drug trafficking.

“If this happens on July 30, I am convinced without any doubt that the President of the United States will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that there will be measures taken against individuals and potentially sectors for the unconstitutional overthrow of democracy and the replacement with a Cuban-style regime,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on Wednesday.

But while the US Congress is united in its disgust toward Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, some lawmakers, such as Senator Corker, disagree over how far the U.S. should go if Maduro’s constituent assembly comes up for its scheduled vote.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened last week to take “strong and swift economic actions” against the South American country if the vote goes through.

“The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions,” Trump said.

The White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the United States could hit PDVSA as part of a “sectoral” sanctions package that would take aim at the OPEC nation’s entire energy industry for the first time.

They made clear the administration was moving cautiously, mindful that if such an unprecedented step was taken, it could deepen the country’s economic and social crisis, in which millions suffer food shortages and soaring inflation.