What Happened: The United States is considering sanctions against Venezuela to limit the ability of Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions to process transactions inside the country, as well as block SWIFT access for state-owned financial institutions, Reuters reported March 14.
Why It Matters: The U.S. government is attempting to ratchet up the financial pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro by severing the country's access to the international financial system and drive a wedge between Maduro and some of his political and military allies. However, it remains unclear whether such sanctions would only target the politically connected elite or have broader impacts on Venezuela's society due to the country's financial problems.
Background: The U.S. government has already placed extensive sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and is exploring ways to expand its sanctions pressure on Maduro. Besides targeting financial transactions, Washington may also implement secondary sanctions aimed at hampering Venezuela's ability to export oil to third countries.