Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A (PDVSA) has replaced its Vice President of Finance, Simon Zerpa Delgado, reportedly over concerns that US sanctions on him had led to certain oil exports to the US being blocked. Mr Zerpa Delgado was sanctioned by OFAC on 26 July 2017, pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for his involvement in “Venezuelan Government corruption” (links to OFAC Notice and Treasury press release).
The UK has passed the Venezuela (Sanctions) (Overseas Territories) Order 2018, SI 2018/179, which gives effect in specified Overseas Territories to the EU sanctions measures provided in Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/2074 and Council Regulation (EU) 2017/2063. Those include an arms embargo, framework to impose targeted measures against those responsible for human rights violations and/or undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela (see previous blog here). The Order comes into force on 8 March 2018.
The Overseas Territories to which this Order extends: Anguilla; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in the Island of Cyprus; Turks and Caicos Islands; and Virgin Islands.
The EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia have aligned themselves with Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/90. That decision added 7 officials to the EU’s Venezuela sanctions list, including the head of the Venezuelan judiciary, Maikel José Moreno Pérez (previous blog here).
The new FAQs relate to the term “new debt” in section 1 of E.O. 13808 and to the receipt of late payments from the Government of Venezuela, including state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).
In light of the situation in Venezuela, the European Parliament has adopted Resolution 2018/2559(RSP) in which it (inter alia):
(1) Strongly condemns “the decision by the Venezuelan authorities to expel the Spanish Ambassador in Caracas and declare him ‘persona non grata’” (see previous blog here);
(2) Considers the imposition by the EU Council of “the arms embargo, and the sanctions levied against seven Venezuelan officials to be appropriate measures in response to grave breaches of human rights and democracy, but calls for them to be extended against those mainly responsible for the increased political, social, economic and humanitarian crisis, namely the President, the Vice-President, the Minister of Defence, members of the high military command, and members of their inner circles, including family members”; and
(3) Stresses that, “if the human rights situation continues to deteriorate, further diplomatic and economic actions could be explored and adopted, including those related to the state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA)”.
The UK has passed the Export Control (Venezuela Sanctions) Order 2018, SI 2018/108, which provides for the enforcement of EU trade restrictions against Venezuela – as contained in Council Regulation (EU) 2017/2063. The Order comes into force on 26 February 2018.
A person who knowingly engages in activities prohibited by the EU’s Venezuela sanctions regime, with intent to evade those prohibitions, commits a criminal offence. The Order also makes provision for other criminal offences, including the circumvention of EU trade restrictions on Venezuela.
Venezuela’s President Maduro has announced that a ‘pre-sale’ of the country’s proposed ‘Petro’ cryptocurrency will commence on 20 February 2018. The Venezuelan Government has stated that the Petro will enable the country to make financial transactions and to overcome international sanctions.
Last week, OFAC published an FAQ relating to US person involvement in the proposed currency (see previous blog here). It states that a currency carrying rights to receive commodities in specified quantities at a later date (something which President Maduro had indicated in his proposal), would “appear to be an extension of credit to the Venezuelan government. Executive Order 13808 prohibits US persons from extending or otherwise dealing in new debt with a maturity of greater than 30 days of the Government of Venezuela. US persons that deal in the prospective Venezuelan digital currency may be exposed to US sanctions risk.”
Last week, the Venezuelan government expelled the country’s Spanish ambassador. According to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, this step was taken as a reaction to EU sanctions against the country (the EU recently imposed targeted measures against 7 Venezuelan officials – see here). President Maduro has previously made reference to “international economic sabotage” being inflicted to Venezuela’s economy, which he states is being led by Spain and the US. In response, Spain has announced that it will be expelling the Venezuelan ambassador.
The EU has issued a press release condemning the Venezuelan decision and expressing its “full solidarity” with Spain. It reiterates that EU decisions in the area of foreign policy are taken by unanimity and, as a result, calls for the Venezuelan decision to be reversed. Furthermore, the press release states that “the EU will keep monitoring the situation and [shall stand] ready to take appropriate measures in light of developments”. French President Macron has called for further EU sanctions against Venezuela.