Five days after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president of Venezuela, the country’s political situation remains chaotic and highly volatile. On Monday, Australia joined the ranks of countries that have come out in support of Guaido, while China and Russia remain the most prominent supporters of President Maduro and his regime.
While the United States leads international support for Juan Guaido and President Trump announced last week that he will “continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” U.S. sanctions have yet to target the sector that would hurt Maduro’s government most: oil.
Despite the long-standing tensions between the two countries, the United States remains the most important export partner for Venezuela. In 2017, the U.S. imported more than 600 thousand barrels a day of crude oil from Venezuela, “pumping” $12 billion into the country sitting atop the largest crude oil reserves in the world. Even though that money is directly funding Maduro’s government through the state-owned PDVSA, a full U.S. embargo on Venezuelan oil is considered unlikely because it would hit the country’s people just as hard as its controversial government.