August 23, 2017 / 11:01 PM / a month ago

U.S. weighs ban on trade in Venezuela debt: U.S. official

President Donald Trump waves to Marines as he departs Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Yuma, Arizona. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is considering additional sanctions against Venezuela’s government, including a ban on trading the country’s debt, a U.S. administration official with knowledge of discussions said on Wednesday.

“It is just one option that is being talked about,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on Tuesday the possibility that the United States could prohibit trading of some Venezuelan bonds, said one option would be a ban on trading of new debt issued by Venezuela or its state-owned entities, with an exemption for debt issued under the authority of the National Assembly that Maduro has stripped of power.

Venezuela bonds fell on Wednesday.

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions against Maduro and senior officials in his administration to punish them for what the United States sees as their role in undermining democracy in the oil-producing country.

On Aug. 9, Washington imposed sanctions against eight more individuals, including the brother of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Miami on Wednesday, said the Trump administration was ready to do more.

“You may be assured that under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela,” Pence said, urging Latin America to also do more to pressure Maduro’s government.

“The United States has already issued three rounds of targeted sanctions against Maduro and his inner circle, and there is more to come,” Pence said.

Venezuela’s government has around $2 billion in available cash to make $1.3 billion in bond payments by the end of the year and to cover imports of food and medicine, Reuters reported in August.

The funds that could be used for debt payment include $1.3 billion in cash and IMF Special Drawing Rights held in central bank reserves, and $700 million in separate accounts that the central bank lists as “other financial assets,” according to a report by local firm Financial Synthesis.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Lesley Wroughton; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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