CARACAS – Venezuela’s government said on Friday that the sanctions the United States imposed in August had left it with more than $3 billion in frozen assets in the global financial system.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza provided that figure in a meeting with a group of international observers who are in Venezuela to monitor Sunday’s municipal elections.
Leftist President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela are hailing that balloting as proof of the country’s healthy democracy even though much of the opposition is boycotting the vote.
Arreaza criticized “the absolute coordination between the US government’s anti-democratic imperialist policy against Venezuela’s democracy” and efforts by Washington’s allies to target Caracas, a reference to the European Union and Canada.
In August, the US signed an executive order that bars dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and that nation’s state oil company, PDVSA.
That move was the latest action by the US aimed at heaping pressure on Maduro’s administration, which the opposition and several foreign governments say has moved to consolidate a dictatorship.
For its part, the EU last month adopted a series of restrictive measures against Venezuela in response to gubernatorial elections in October that it said were marred by irregularities and to the setting-up of a plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly (ANC) that it said further eroded democratic and independent institutions.
Those measures consisted of an “embargo on arms and on related material that might be used for internal repression, as well as a legal framework for a travel ban and assets freeze,” the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council said on Nov. 13.
Maduro has touted the ANC as necessary to lift Venezuela, which had been racked by months of violent opposition-led protests, out of political deadlock and a deep economic crisis triggered in part by lower oil prices in recent years.
But Venezuela’s opposition, which has been stymied in its efforts to oust Maduro via a recall referendum, says it is merely a mechanism to increase the president’s stranglehold on power.
Venezuela in recent weeks has had difficulty in making principal and interest payments on debt issued by the government and state oil company PDVSA.
Maduro’s government places the blame on US sanctions and on growing controls international banks are applying on transactions originating in the Caribbean nation.
Missed deadlines on debt repayment prompted rating agency S&P to recently declare PDVSA in selective default.
American investment groups are the main holders of Venezuelan bonds.