Venezuela crisis: New Zealand refuses to back Guaidó as interim president

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred the 35-year-old opposition leader from leaving the country after chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab announced that he was opening a criminal investigation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the order last week, which was then followed on Monday by US sanctions targeting Venezuela's state oil giant PDVSA, the cash-strapped government's main source of hard currency.

On January 23, he declared himself the country's acting president and vowed to lead a transitional government that would hold democratic elections.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with members of the Venezuelan diplomatic corp after their arrival from the United States, at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Jan. 28, 2019.

The U.S. and other countries recognized Guaido last week as Venezuela's rightful president.

The company would not allow the opposition to take control of its US refinery unit Citgo, Venezuela's key foreign asset, he said.

In addition, the United States issued new sanctions against Venezuela's state run oil company.

But Russia has been reticent about committing more capital, especially because opposition officials have said they might not honour all the Maduro government's obligations.

The activity of Rosneft, headed by longtime Putin associate Igor Sechin, is a major element in Moscow's close ties with Venezuela.

Washington, as well as Europe and most of Latin America, has backed Guaido, while Russian Federation, joined by China, has denounced U.S. pressure and insisted that its ally Maduro is the only legitimate head of state.

PDVSA is also seeking to sidestep the sanctions by asking major buyers, including US refiners, to renegotiate contracts, sources said.

"My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don't deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia".

Venezuela exports about 500,000 barrels of oil daily to the United States, mostly to Citgo and refineries owned by Valero Energy Corp and Chevron Corp.

"I would imagine that if at any point the Venezuelan Central Bank kept some of its reserves in the USA, it could be rather significant", de Bolle said.

It says more than 40 people are believed to have been killed.

In Geneva, senior US and Venezuelan diplomats traded jibes at a disarmament conference.

US action in Venezuela has also included $20 million in humanitarian assistance, reported the Miami Herald.

Venezuela owes Russian Federation $3 billion and has been paying back about $100 million twice a year, Storchak said, with the next installment due in March.

"There's no question that what we're trying to do is cut off the money to the regime that should not be in power, and make sure that President Guaidó has access to funds and has access to the assets of the country, and to make sure we protect these assets for the people of Venezuela", Mnuchin said Tuesday during an interview with FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo.

But the United States is Venezuela's largest crude importer, ahead of India and China.

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 ..."

  • Eleanor Harrison