U.S. insists all options are on the table with Venezuela

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuela's president directly, but left oil off the table for now.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Aug. 1, 2017 at 9:32 AM
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Aug. 1 (UPI) -- All options remain on the table for U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, including oil, though industry reports were mixed on the potential impact.

Crude oil prices edged higher late last week and into Monday on expectations that the U.S. government would respond to weekend elections in Venezuela with sanctions on its oil sector, a cornerstone of its economy. The election was seen as a move by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to silence his critics and the U.S. State Department said after the vote "it would "take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela."

On Monday, the U.S. government sanctioned Maduro himself, but left oil restrictions off the table. When asked about the possibility for further action, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said all options were under consideration.

"Our objective is not to do anything that hurts the people of Venezuela," he told reporters. "But let me just say, we will continue to monitor all of our specific options."

Venezuela is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the third-largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, behind Canada and Saudi Arabia. Sanctions on Venezuelan oil would likely cause a spike in retail gasoline prices in the United States at a time when summer demand pressures are already pulling the market higher.

The market reaction to the political situation unfolding in Venezuela may be psychological as Maduro's government could eventually find other buyers even if the United States decided to extend sanctions to oil. A report from Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, said any U.S. ban would probably not have much of an extended impact on crude oil prices.

Last week, a source in the U.S. government told S&P Global Platts that sanctions on Venezuela's oil would have "a more devastating effect on the U.S. refining sector than on Venezuela's economy."

Speaking on national television Monday evening, Venezuela's president said he wasn't intimidated by Trump, who he referred to as an emperor.

"I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever," his translation read. "Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump."

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