United States Implements Targeted Sanctions on Venezuela

On March 9, 2015, following failed diplomatic efforts to bring Venezuela in line with its human rights commitments under international law, President Obama issued EO 13692 declaring human rights abuses and conditions in Venezuela to be a threat to the national security of the United States.

The EO imposes sanctions against seven of Venezuela’s military, law enforcement and security officials responsible for the human rights abuses associated with the antigovernment protests that began in February 2014 and the persecution of persons in Venezuela exercising freedom of speech or assembly. OFAC responded by designating the seven individuals named in the EO on its SDN List. The sanctions are designed to impact the named individuals rather than the people or economy of Venezuela.

The EO also expands the basis for making further sanctions designations beyond those outlined in the law to address more generally the erosion of democratic processes and public corruption by senior government officials in Venezuela. Notably, the EO provides the authority to sanction persons who have materially assisted, sponsored or supported such actions.

The establishment of this new sanctions program creates additional risk for companies doing business in Venezuela. While the current sanctions are limited to a small number of individuals, companies should ensure that they are conducting robust due diligence with counterparties in Venezuela.

For more information, see the OFAC designations, Secretary Lew'sstatement and the Executive Order. See also Akin Gump’s March 11, 2015 International Trade Alert, which provides additional detail.

OFAC Adds New Designations in Ukraine-related Sanctions  

In mid-March, OFAC imposed Ukraine-related sanctions on additional individuals and entities, including Russian National Commercial Bank (RNCB) for its operations in Crimea. In announcing the designation of RNCB, OFAC stated that the bank did not operate in Crimea prior to the “occupation and attempted annexation by Russia” and noted that “Russian authorities have used the bank to facilitate illegal efforts to incorporate Crimea into the Russian Federation.” According to OFAC, RNCB took over or bought branches of banks that were pulling out of Crimea and currently operates the biggest banking network in Crimea. The additional designations mark the latest effort by the U.S. government to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

For additional information, see the new designations, the OFACpress release, and coverage by the WSJ.

State Department Issues Request for Comments related to Export Control Reform

Early this month, the State Department issued a request for comments regarding controls implemented in recent revisions, resulting from the President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, to USML Categories VIII and XIX. The request for comments is in furtherance of the State Department’s plan to review and revise USML categories on a periodic basis in execution of ECR to ensure clarity and prevent the imposition of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) controls on items “in normal commercial use.” The State Department will accept comments until May 1, 2015. 

For additional information, see the Federal Register Notice, 22 CFR, March 2, 2015 Public Notice 9050.