U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is threatening to ban the import and export of oil and crude products from Venezuela into the U.S. to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to "return to the constitution."
"Obviously, sanctioning the oil or in effect prohibiting the oil to be sold in the United States, or for the United States as well to sell or provide oil to Venezuela, or refined products, is something we continue to consider," Tillerson told the press today from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Venezuela continues to be the U.S.’s third-largest oil supplier. Approximately 90 percent of Venezuela’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from crude and its extracts.
"One of the aspects of considering sanctioning oil is what effect would it have on the Venezuelan people? Is it a step that might bring this to an end more rapidly?", Tillerson said in a press conference referring to the U.S. government’s desire to topple the democratically elected Maduro government.
The U.S. already placed sanctions on several high-ranking Venezuelan government and business officials in order to oust its president.
The socialist incumbent was officially named his party’s candidate on Friday, the same day that Tillerson kick-started his week-long Latin American and Caribbean tour that began in Mexico.
In a prelude to the tour, the secretary of state made thinly veiled reference to U.S. support of a military coup in Venezuela to overturn the Maduro government at the University of Texas at Austin, last Thursday.
"In the history of Venezuela and South American countries, it is often times that the military is the agent of change when things are so bad and the leadership can no longer serve the people," Tillerson to the university audience.
"The secretary of state, Tillerson, goes on a tour of five countries. What for? To conspire against President Maduro, against the Bolivarian revolution, against the people of Venezuela," Maduro rebutted to Tillerson in a speech to the President's party, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
"But imperialism ... has turned out to be a paper tiger, and here we have a true and vigorous revolution," the incumbent added.
Tillerson is currently in Argentina meeting with the country’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie. Faurie said his country would "closely follow" the possibility of fuel sanctions as long as they "never harm the Venezuelan people."
The U.S. secretary of state will next head to Peru, then Colombia and ends his trip in Jamaica.