U.S. warns Venezuela's Maduro not to interfere with Guaido's return, puts energy companies on notice

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 February 2020 18:26 GMT

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WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Wednesday warned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro not to interfere with the return of opposition leader Juan Guaido and floated possible sanctions against Russia's Rosneft and other energy companies that operate in the country.

Speaking to reporters on a call before a scheduled meeting between Guiado and U.S. President Donald Trump later at the White House, a senior administration official drew a clear line in the sand.

"Any harm that may be caused on Juan Guaido on his return to Venezuela will have very significant consequences," the official said. "Therefore they should tread very carefully in that regard."

The official also warned energy companies to "tread cautiously" in their activities in the country that directly or indirectly support the Maduro government, flagging Rosneft, Spain's Repsol and U.S.-based Chevron Corp by name.

"We are halfway through our maximum pressure campaign ... and their activities are clearly of concern," the official said. When asked specifically about sanctions against Rosneft, the official said "everything is an option."

Guaido, president of the opposition-held National Assembly, is recognized as Venezuela's rightful president by dozens of countries including the United States.

He was a guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address, when Trump, a Republican, praised him as a "very brave man who carries with him the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Venezuelans." Guaido received a standing ovation from Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress. (Reporting By Steve Holland, Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason, Editing by Franklin Paul and Steve Orlofsky)

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