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The U.S. is almost certainly preparing to impose targeted crude sanctions against Venezuela, analysts told CNBC on Monday, in a move likely to constitute a "devastating" blow for the oil-dependent state.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won re-election to another six-year term on Sunday, despite widespread anger over the South American country's crushing economic and social crises. The vote was marred by low voter turnout, allegations of vote-rigging and an opposition boycott.
"The next step is sanctions against the oil sector," Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Monday.
"This is crucial because (Venezuela's) oil sector represents 25 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), 50 percent of fiscal revenues and 97 percent of revenue from foreign exchange… So, obviously, sanctions on the oil sector in Venezuela will be a game changer."
Amid widespread food shortages, the collapse of the country's traditional currency and relentless hyperinflation, Maduro was widely expected to emerge victorious on Sunday. The socialist leader is now set to serve as Venezuela's premier until at least 2024.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Maduro's disputed success, all eyes have turned to see whether President Donald Trump's administration will impose sanctions on the country's all-important oil sector — as it has repeatedly threatened to do.
Alongside the EU, surrounding Latin American countries have also warned Caracas they would be prepared to take additional measures against Maduro's government if it went ahead with the election.
"Oil sanctions would be devastating to the Venezuelan economy and to the regime's internal stability as they would very strongly impact the revenues that flow through the patronage regime," Fernando Freijedo, Latin America analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email.
Maduro's leftist administration is almost entirely dependent on crude sales in order to try to decelerate its spiraling crises.
Yet, the country's production collapse has seen its crude output drop to around 1.4 million barrels a day (bpd) in recent months — a spectacular fall of nearly 40 percent since 2015.
"The sharp decline in oil prices has nothing to do with the dire state of the economy… (Instead) it is an epic story of economic mismanagement and indeed widespread corruption," IHS Markit's Moya-Ocampos said.
The price of oil collapsed from near $120 a barrel in June 2014 due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming U.S. shale production. Brent crude futures have since rebounded to multi-year highs of nearly $80 a barrel, amid a tightening energy market and ongoing OPEC-led production cuts.