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President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order slapping financial sanctions on Nicolas Maduro's regime in Venezuela.
In a Friday press briefing, national security advisor H.R. McMaster said "this order demonstrates more clearly than ever that the United States will not allow an illegitimate dictatorship to take hold in the Western hemisphere at the expense of its people."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the news conference that the order was meant to restrict the Venezuelan government's access to capital.
"Nicolas Maduro has financed his regime by hollowing out Venezuela through economic mismanagement, corruption and the assumption of onerous debt," Mnuchin said in a briefing with reporters.
He added, "Maduro may no longer take advantage of the American financial system to facilitate the wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people."
Mnuchin, however, left the door open for rolling back these sanctions if the Maduro regime restores democratic processes.
"I think what the president is very clear on is the existing situation is unacceptable and if they restore the proper democratic processes, we'll react to that appropriately. This is not about changing leadership per se, this is about restoring the democratic process and rule of law," Mnuchin said.
The order aims to bar the Venezuelan government from issuing new debt and equity. It said it also seeks to stop dividend payments to the government as well as dealings in existing bonds.
The Treasury Department will, however, issue licenses to allow certain transactions to continue that would otherwise be prohibited. These provisions, the White House said, will help "mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people."
In July, the Treasury sanctioned Maduro himself, alleging that his administration has attempted to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. At the time, Mnuchin called Maduro, who is Venezuela's president, a "dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people."
Those July sanctions followed a controversial election that established a constitutional assembly which granted Maduro's party sweeping power. Many countries had said publicly they would not recognize the outcome of that election.
Venezuela has been engulfed in an economic crisis, featuring skyrocketing inflation and food shortages. The country's economy had been tied to its oil exports but was sent into a downward spiral amid crashing crude prices in 2014.