By Jorge Jraissati
CARACAS, Venezuela (AA) – Venezuela’s president on Wednesday denounced the “illegal” sanctions the US has been imposing and “criminal” blockade of the country.
In the past, Nicolas Maduro has manifested his willingness to take the US to the International Criminal Court in response to the unilateral sanctions.
Maduro made the remarks in an annual “accountability speech” to the National Assembly which is the country’s own version of America’s State of the Union address.
In his speech, Maduro said the sanctions represent a “multiform attack” which has dramatically compromised virtually all sectors of the Venezuelan economy such as “income, currency, foreign debt, oil production and imports of essential goods.”
He emphasized the negative consequences the sanctions have produced on Venezuela’s main source of income — its oil sector.
Maduro said Venezuela has not sold a barrel of oil since December 2019 because of the sanctions and that as a result, the state has lost 99% of its income.
According to Venezuela’s Vice President for Planning, Ricardo Menendez, the Venezuelan state has lost over $40 billion as a result of the sanctions.
Among the other economic topics covered in the speech, Maduro also mentioned that Venezuela will deepen its process of ‘implicit dollarization,’ a term that refers to a country that despite officially maintaining its domestic currency is also allowing a foreign currency to circulate and become part of its economic life.
Maduro said that in 2021, he will propose a new banking system that allows people to deposit their dollars so they can make purchases with debit cards instead of cash.
Ultimately, Wednesday’s speech illustrates the tense relationship between the Venezuelan and American governments. Maduro’s remarks came just hours after a confrontational exchange on social media between Venezuelan Foreign minister Jorge Arreaza and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo which also touched on the legality of the sanctions.