OFAC Issues Venezuela Sanctions Regulations

July 13, 2015

On July 10, 2015,  the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations (“VSR”) to implement the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 (“the Act”) and Executive Order 13692 (“EO 13692”).  See here and here for our previous publications discussing the Act and EO 13692, respectively. OFAC issued the VSR in “abbreviated form” and intends to issue more comprehensive regulations at a later date.

On December 18, 2014, President Obama signed the Act, which required the president to impose sanctions on officials of the Government of Venezuela or their proxies who are determined to have engaged in human rights abuses in response to anti-government protests. On March 8, 2015, President Obama issued EO 13692, which blocks property in the United States, or in the possession or control of a U.S. person, of persons listed in an Annex to EO 13692 or determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to be responsible for, or complicit in, controlling or otherwise directing, or to have participated in, directly or indirectly, a number of activities in Venezuela. EO 13692 also blocks the property of persons determined to have provided “financial, material, or technical support” for, or to be owned or controlled by, a person whose property is blocked. The predicate activities include:  actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions; significant acts of violence or conduct that constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014; actions that prohibit, limit or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or peaceful assembly; or public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Venezuela. Currently, the seven individuals listed on the Annex to EO 13692 are the only persons blocked under the authority of EO 13692. 

The VSR do not contain any prohibitions beyond those set forth in EO 13692, however, the VSR provide additional definitional and other guidance. For example, the VSR define “financial, material or technical support.” The VSR also contain certain licenses, including an authorization of the provision of certain legal services and emergency medical services to persons whose property is blocked pursuant to EO 13692, subject to conditions.

The VSR were published in abbreviated form for the purpose of providing immediate guidance to the public. In the adopting release, OFAC stated that it intends to supplement these VSR with a more comprehensive set of regulations, which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance and additional general licenses and statements of licensing policy.