The US has imposed new sanctions on Venezuelan oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in a bid to increase pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition.

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated PDVSA according to Executive Order (EO) 13850 for operating in the Venezuelan oil sector.

PDVSA is a primary source of income and foreign currency for Venezuela.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said: “The US is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support Interim President Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy.

“The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government.”

“Today’s designation of PDVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela.

“The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government.”

Although they don’t need to be permanent, US sanctions are intended to change behaviour and will be lifted for those who take concrete actions to support democratic order and combat corruption in Venezuela, including PDVSA.

The latest sanctions on PDVSA follow a determination by Mnuchin according to EO 13850 that anyone operating in the Venezuelan oil sector may be subject to sanctions.

Under the sanctions, any PDVSA assets in US jurisdictions will be blocked and Americans will be prohibited from doing business with the company.