The Maduro regime so far has resisted opposition pressure and international pressure to step down. Oil is the Maduro regime’s lifeblood, and the US is looking to step up the pressure on Venezuela by cutting it off.
Trump previously discussed this last year, but it seems he may be moving to do it:
U.S. refiners are bidding up prices for scarce types of crude oil needed for their most sophisticated plants as the United States reconsiders harsher sanctions on Venezuela that could further reduce imports of the country’s oil.
Trump administration officials in recent days met with U.S. oil company executives to lay out potential actions in response to the Jan. 10 inauguration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an election it considered illegitimate.
Among other steps, U.S. officials have recognized the opposition-run Venezuelan congress as the only legitimately elected authority. But the proposals that would most affect the energy industry involve banning U.S. exports of refined products or limiting oil imports – a move that, until now, the White House has not taken even after sanctioning individuals and barring access to U.S. banks.
“It’s more serious than I’ve heard before,” said a refining industry executive familiar with the White House discussions. “They are setting the table to pull the trigger if they have to.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become directly involved, accelerating possible financial and political steps against Maduro, the person said. State Department spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.