February 4, 2019 / 3:20 PM / 3 months ago

EU studying more sanctions on Venezuela, no oil embargo: Malta

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is considering imposing more sanctions on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro but has not discussed an oil embargo, Malta’s foreign minister said on Monday.

“The intention ... is that sanctions can be possible on certain individuals rather than on issues that might have an effect on an already weakened economy,” Carmelo Abela told Reuters following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“Having further (sectoral) sanctions is not excluded but primarily we are focused on certain individuals.”

Since November 2017, the European Union has imposed an embargo on exports of weapons and equipment for internal repression, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on 18 officials accused of violating rights and undermining democracy.

Experts say EU sanctions, while symbolic, have had little or no impact on Maduro’s policies so far and that oil and financial sanctions may be the only way to force the government to change.

Oil and related products make up three quarters of Venezuela’s exports to the EU, but the bloc is unwilling to take steps that might further worsen an economy already in deep crisis with widespread suffering.

The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA.

(This story corrects quote in paragraph two to replace earlier wrongly attributed quote.)

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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