The United States has placed sweeping new sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in the latest attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The sanctions will cut off an essential source of income for Venezuela, which is already facing a massive economic crisis. They come a week after the U.S. announced it was recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela. In a recent interview on Fox Business, national security adviser John Bolton openly said U.S. oil companies could benefit from what’s happening in Venezuela.
John Bolton: “We’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela or, in the case of Citgo, here in the United States. I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here. You know, Venezuela is one of the three countries I call the troika of tyranny. It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. It’d be good for the people of Venezuela. It’d be good for the people of the United States.”
Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar tweeted Monday, “Trump’s new sanctions on Venezuela are nothing more than economic sabotage designed to force regime change by starving the very people we claim to be helping. We must lift these, & other sanctions impacting Venezuela’s poor, & support dialogue between the opposition & government.” Omar is one of only a handful of lawmakers who have condemned U.S. support for the opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
On Monday, John Bolton took questions at a White House press briefing—the first such briefing in 41 days.
John Roberts: “Is there any circumstance under which American forces would get involved?”
John Bolton: “Look, the president has made it very clear on this, on this matter, that all options are on the table.”
Bolton was photographed entering the briefing room holding a notepad with the words written “5,000 troops to Colombia.” Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, has just returned from Colombia. He is scheduled to brief Senator Marco Rubio and others today.
This comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called for more protests this week. On Sunday, he told The Washington Post he is in talks with some Venezuelan military officials to remove President Maduro from power. He also told CNN that he has spoken repeatedly to President Trump.
As federal employees returned to work after a 35-day partial government shutdown, the Congressional Budget Office said the shutdown resulted in an economic loss of $11 billion—$8 billion of this is believed to be temporary, leaving a permanent economic loss of $3 billion.
Members of a bipartisan conference committee are starting talks this week, tasked with securing an agreement that both Congress and Trump will have to approve to keep the government open. The current temporary funding bill will expire on February 15. Trump has threatened to shut down the government again or declare a national emergency if Congress does not include border wall funding in its bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address on February 5. The address was initially scheduled to happen today, but Pelosi refused to extend an invitation to Trump during the government shutdown.
The former superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park said damage caused to the park during the shutdown could take hundreds of years to recover from. National parks around the country were hit hard by the shutdown, with reports of overflowing toilets and trash piling up, as well as vandalism and damage to wildlife.
The U.S. announced Monday it was charging Chinese telecom giant Huawei and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou with bank fraud and stealing trade secrets. The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition from Canada, where she is out on bail after her December arrest. The bank fraud charge is related to Huawei subsidiary Skycom, which is alleged to have violated U.S. sanctions in Iran. The indictment comes amid ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, whose tariff truce will expire in March if no deal is made.
In northern Yemen, the U.N. said Monday that the shelling of a camp for displaced people killed eight civilians Saturday and wounded 30 others. An attack earlier this month in the same area killed six children and two women. U.N. officials are in Yemen for ongoing peace talks as a fragile ceasefire in Hodeidah, agreed to last month by Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces, has been delayed.
Meanwhile, British aid agencies, including the Red Cross and Oxfam, have sounded the alarm on the situation in Yemen, calling for the international community to pay more attention to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and for the swift implementation of the ceasefire in the port of Hodeidah. This is Oxfam’s Awssan Kamal.
Awssan Kamal: “People are struggling to buy the daily rations to be able to feed their children. Women are having to travel vast distances to get the water. And fathers and mothers are having to make that choice where they have to marry their daughters at a younger age to be able to provide for the family.”
Back in the United States, a polar vortex is hitting the Midwest this week, bringing the coldest arctic outbreak in at least 20 years. Wisconsin has declared a state of emergency. Wind chill temperatures could plummet as low as minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago and minus-60 in Minneapolis. Medical professionals have warned extreme temperatures could cause frostbite and hypothermia after just five minutes of exposure.
On Capitol Hill, senators have voted 74 to 19 to advance a bill containing a controversial provision aimed at preventing opposition to the Israeli government by allowing state and local governments to sanction U.S. companies boycotting Israel. The bill was temporarily blocked by Senate Democrats earlier this month in the midst of the government shutdown but is now expected to pass later this week.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “close to being completed” and that he has been briefed on the report. On Monday, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress in a bid to make Mueller’s findings available to the public.
In Virginia, thousands of teachers and supporters took to the streets Monday to protest low wages and demand more funding for education. The march comes in the wake of the Los Angeles teachers’ strike, which ended last week in a deal between the teachers’ union and the school district, and as teachers in Denver have also voted to strike. Teachers in Oakland, California, will begin voting today on whether to authorize a strike.
And in New York City, outspoken immigrant rights activist and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, Ravi Ragbir, emerged to a crowd of supporters and local leaders Monday after he was required to report to ICE for a check-in. One year ago, a federal court ordered ICE to release Ragbir after he was detained at a similar check-in and threatened with deportation. This is Ragbir addressing supporters outside of Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan.
Ravi Ragbir: “They want to break our spirit. They want to destroy our humanity. They want us to give up, by threatening and intimidating us. You know, how could you sleep, how could you live with yourself, when you are trying to take away water from people who are dying of thirst?”