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Exclusive: U.S. mulls sanctions on Venezuela to put pressure on Maduro – source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering sanctioning a Venezuelan military-run oil services company and restricting insurance coverage for Venezuelan oil shipments to ratchet up pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

With Maduro running for another term in an April election that Washington and its allies oppose as a sham, the United States is weighing sanctions that would target Venezuela’s vital oil sector beyond what has been done before, the official told Reuters. Some measures could come before the vote and others could be imposed afterwards.

The official, who is close to U.S. internal deliberations on Venezuela policy and spoke on condition of anonymity, would not rule out an eventual full-scale ban on Venezuelan oil shipments to the United States, among the toughest of oil-related sanctions.

“I think (it would cause) a fairly strong shock to the oil market in the short term,” the official said.

The official stressed that no decisions have been made and that any U.S. action would take into consideration potential harm to ordinary Venezuelans, already suffering from food shortages and hyperinflation, and the country’s neighbors as well as the impact on the U.S. oil industry and American consumers.

Venezuela was the fourth largest supplier of crude oil and products to the United States in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Its crude oil sales to the United States last year were the lowest since 1991, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data.

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