The United States sanctioned three businessmen and eight companies based in Mexico on Thursday whom it accused of participating in a network to try to evade the penalties that Washington has imposed on Venezuela’s oil sector to pressure the departure of Nicolás Maduro. The South American country faces a fuel shortage due to the constant sanctions imposed by Washington on countries that sell hydrocarbons to the Chavista regime.
The Treasury Department maintained that the businessmen Joaquín Leal Jiménez, Olga María Zepeda Esparza and Verónica Esparza García, as well as the entities Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group and others under their control, became part of the black list of the Control Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC). The sanctions are translated into the freezing of all assets and economic interests that the convicts have in the US and any transaction involving US individuals and entities is prohibited.
“The illegitimate Maduro regime created a secret network to evade the sanctions that the Treasury has now exposed,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich. “The United States will continue to relentlessly persecute sanctions evaders, who plunder Venezuela’s resources for personal gain at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” he added in a statement.
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, was quick to react. In a message posted on Twitter in which he addresses the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, he qualifies the sanctions as criminal and announces that he will take the case to the International Criminal Court. “Whatever they do, they will not twist the will of the Venezuelan people. None of his plans have worked with Venezuela, nor will it work. Thank you for your confessions and evidence to take them to the International Criminal Court, ”Arreaza wrote.
The sanctions come the same week that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador left the door open to sell gasoline to Venezuela, if the Maduro regime asks him to do so, and if they do so out of “humanitarian necessity.”
Since at least 2019, the Treasury maintains, that the Maduro regime and the state company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) have worked with Alex Naím Saab Morán, a businessman of Colombian origin and Leal to evade US sanctions and help in the sale. of Venezuelan crude oil. One of the techniques in which the businessmen would have participated was to disguise an “oil for food” program that would not have ultimately resulted in the delivery of food in Venezuela. Saab and Joaquín Leal, in collaboration with Mexico-based companies Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group, negotiated the resale of more than 30 million barrels of crude oil on behalf of PDVSA, approximately 40% of the country’s oil exports. company in April 2020, Washington details.