US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order enabling new sanctions on Venezuela’s gold sector, in a bid to disrupt trade with Turkey that US officials fear is undermining their efforts to pressure the South American nation’s president, Nicolas Maduro, and members of his authoritarian government.
The order, signed on Wednesday by Trump and to be announced at a speech on Thursday (Nov 1) by National Security Adviser John Bolton, targets those operating corruptly within the gold sector and will have a “fairly significant” effect on the country’s economy, according to a senior administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the announcement before it was made.
The Treasury Department is expected to announce details of how it is implementing the new sanctions authority later on Thursday.
While the initial effort will focus on Venezuela’s gold sector, Trump’s order gives the State and Treasury departments authority to target additional industries in the future.
“The new sanctions will target networks operating within corrupt Venezuelan economic sectors and deny them access to stolen wealth,” Bolton will say, according to an advanced copy of his speech provided by the official.
“Most immediately, the new sanctions will prevent US persons from engaging with actors and networks complicit in corrupt or deceptive transactions in the Venezuelan gold.
Bolton, speaking at Freedom Tower, the symbolic building where the federal government received many refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba, framed the plans as part of a broader effort by the US to promote democracy in the Americas.
In addition to the gold sanctions, Bolton will also announce that the State Department added more than two dozen additional entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services to the restricted list of entities with which financial transactions by US persons are prohibited.
“The Cuban military and intelligence agencies must not disproportionately profit from the United States, its people, its travellers, or its businesses,” Bolton will say.
American officials say those actions are a consequence of Cuban efforts to aid the Maduro government, and separate from the US response to the unexplained ailment detected among American diplomats on the island.
Bolton will also hint that the US is preparing sanctions against the government of Nicaragua amid the violent political crisis sparked earlier this year by President Daniel Ortega’s announced changes to the country’s social security programme.
The US wants free and fair elections in the country, the Trump administration official said.
“This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” Bolton will say.
“Under President Trump, the United States is taking direct action against all three regimes to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region.”
Venezuela’s gold industry has been under scrutiny by US officials in recent weeks, with the Treasury Department noting that many mines are run by criminal gangs, a situation that is environmentally disastrous.
The sanctions are likely to have a particular effect on trade with Turkey, with tons of gold sent there annually for refinement and processing. Officials have also voiced concern that some of the gold may be making its way to Iran in violation of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Venezuela’s economy collapsed as revenues from oil production plunged, leading to widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.
Yet Maduro and his socialist government remain in power and many opponents have been arrested or fled the country and demonstrations have been violently suppressed.
Trump has suggested a “military option” for ending Venezuela’s misery.
Bolton’s speech Thursday in Miami is not expected to announce any changes in the US posture towards Central American countries that have recently drawn the ire of Trump after the formation of a pair of migrant caravans joined by thousands of individuals who say they are travelling to seek refugee status in the US.
While Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut aid to the caravan’s origin countries – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – the official said the US has had a productive dialogue with those governments since the formation of the migrant groups.
Leaders in those countries have blamed political opponents, the government of Venezuela, and leftist political groups of organising the caravan. The Trump administration has considered those explanations as well as assistance offered by the countries as it has evaluated the aid programmes, according to the official.
Bolton is also expected to offer an open hand to Jair Bolsonaro, the fiery populist elected on Sunday as the leader of Brazil.