Like many other European countries, Madrid sided with the US and recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s self-proclaimed ‘interim president’. However, Spain’s central bank has continued to act as an intermediary enabling the Venezuelan government to make financial transactions, and maintains ties with Cuba, Caracas’s regional ally.
The US Treasury is considering sanctions against the Spanish Central Bank and other entities dealing with funds which belong to the Venezuelan government, several sources said to be familiar with the situation have told Bloomberg.
According to the outlet, the new sanctions aren’t expected to be announced before the Spanish general elections on November 10. Bloomberg’s sources did not provide any additional details on the measures, except to say that Spanish officials had been warned about the possible restrictions.
Bloomberg speculated that the sanctions threats may be meant as a “message” to force Spain to shift its policy amid Banco de Espana’s decision to continue doing business with Caracas, and to allow the Venezuelan government to transfer and receive funds despite the series of tough US sanctions measures against the Latin American country’s energy and banking sectors.
Spain Says ‘No’ to Asset Freeze Demand
Elliott Abrams, the US special representative for Venezuela, was reported to have recently traveled to Madrid to ask that the Spanish government follow US and UK policy and freeze Venezuelan assets in Spanish banks. Spanish officials reportedly replied that they would not move to freeze assets unless evidence of money laundering was found.
A Spanish foreign ministry spokesperson told the business outlet that Madrid would not consider any possible US sanctions pressure justified.
Shortly after recognising US-backed Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as the country’s ‘interim president’ in January, the Spanish government appeared to criticise US policy, with Foreign Minister Josep Borrell later telling reporters that President Nicolas Maduro was looking “stronger” by resisting US pressure, and that this was “a reality the US surely wasn’t counting on.”
In another challenge to US Venezuela policy, Spain has voiced its categorical rejection of any possible military intervention against Caracas, and has accused the Trump administration of acting “like a cowboy” with its statements that “all options” were on the table to oust President Nicolas Maduro, including military intervention.
Venezuela has been facing a severe political crisis since late January, when Guaido proclaimed himself ‘interim president’, receiving the immediate backing of the US and its Latin American and European allies. President Maduro has accused Guaido of being a US “puppet” and of working with Washington to stage a coup d’etat in order to try to pilfer the country’s natural resources.