This Tuesday, March 19, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on CVG Compañía General de Minería de Venezuela CA (Minerven), the Venezuelan state-run ferrous metals mining company, and its President, Adrian Antonio Perdomo Mata. The addition of Minerven and Mr. Perdomo Mata to the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN List) follows the imposition of the same sanctions announced against PdVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.) on January 28, pursuant to Executive Order 13850, after the United States recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim president.
Also on Tuesday, at the White House, President Donald Trump welcomed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, in his first official international visit since taking office in January. During the press conference, President Trump defined the crisis in Venezuela as a priority in the context of the bilateral partnership between the US and Brazil, and lauded Brazil’s leadership in supporting democracy in its neighbor. Recently, Brazil and the US have worked together to provide humanitarian assistance across the border.
In recent months, the Venezuela sanctions program has become one of the US government’s most active sanctions programs. To date, over 100 Venezuelan individuals and entities have been added to the SDN List. Any assets within US jurisdiction belonging to parties on the SDN List are “blocked,” or frozen, and US persons generally are prohibited from engaging in any transactions or other dealings with parties on the SDN List unless authorized by OFAC. The Venezuela Executive Orders also authorize OFAC to add to the SDN List any third-country individual or entity who is found to have provided material assistance (i.e., to have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of”) to one of the Venezuelan parties on the SDN List. On March 11, OFAC used this authority to add to the SDN List a Russian bank – Evrofinance Mosnarbank – for its support for PdVSA and its use of Venezuela’s “Petro” cryptocurrency.
When journalists asked about Venezuela sanctions on Tuesday, president Trump stated that he was not afraid of losing momentum and that all options were still on the table, including tougher economic sanctions, indicating that there is room for increased economic pressure against the Maduro regime. “We can do the tough sanctions, and all options are open so we may be doing that, but we haven’t done the toughest of sanctions, as you know”, President Trump said. President Bolsonaro reiterated Brazil’s willingness to cooperate with the US in the strengthening of democracy in the Western Hemisphere.
Beyond the cooperation in Venezuela, the leaders remembered the historical proximity between the United States and Brazil, highlighting the convergence of values and policies. This was reinforced by President Trump announcing the United States’ intent to designate Brazil as a Major Non-NATO Ally and noting his support for Brazil to initiate the accession procedure to become a full member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The dialogue and partnership will incorporate sectors as diverse as the military, trade and investments, innovation for science and technology, as well as the combat of terrorism, narcotics and arms trafficking, cybercrimes, and money laundering.