Washington, DC. The United States having set Venezuela on fire in efforts to topple its socialist government and reclaim its oil for American corporate interests is deciding on how to use sanctions best on the Maduro government.

Trump’s administration is considering possible sanctions on Venezuela’s vital energy sector, including the state oil company PDVSA, senior White House officials said, in what would be a major escalation of American efforts to pressure the country’s embattled leftist government amid a crackdown on the opposition.

The idea of striking at the core of Venezuela’s economy, which relies on oil for some 95 percent of export revenues, has been discussed at high levels of the administration as part of a wide-ranging review of American options, but officials said it remains under debate and action is not imminent.

But they made clear that the administration is moving cautiously, mindful that if such an unprecedented step is taken it could deepen the country’s economic and social crisis, in which millions suffer food shortages and soaring inflation. Two months of anti-government unrest has left more than 60 people dead.

A complicating factor would be the potential impact on oil shipments to the United States, for which Venezuela is the third largest oil supplier after Canada and Saudi Arabia. It accounted for 8 percent of America’s oil imports in March, according to US government figures.

The United States has imposed sectoral sanctions against Russia’s energy, banking and defense industries over Moscow’s alleged involvement in Ukraine’s Donbass conflict. Possibilities could include a blanket ban on Venezuelan oil imports and preventing PDVSA from trading and doing business in the United States, which would have a severe impact on PDVSA’s American refining subsidiary Citgo.

American grounds for sanctioning PDVSA will be “to claim that they’re corrupt, for example, or that they’re abusers of human rights indirectly,” said one of the officials, without giving further details.“That’s enough. We have the legal authority to do that right now if we like. We control the horizontal and the vertical, whatever we say is the reality they wake up to.” The American official said.

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