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Risk of US Sanctions Looms as Venezuela Roils Spanish Election



The Spanish government’s ambiguous relationship with Venezuela — and the possibility of U.S. economic sanctions stemming from that relationship — has emerged as an issue in the run-up to legislative elections this weekend.In a candidates’ debate Monday night, centrist candidate Albert Rivera accused Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of “always being last in line and footdragging” on Venezuela. Rightist VOX party leader Santiago Abascal, meanwhile, accused the Socialists of jeopardizing Spain’s important relations with the United States.The accusations follow published reports that the United States is contemplating sanctions to punish Spain for its failure to take tougher action against the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, which Washington is seeking to isolate and ultimately unseat.Bloomberg last week quoted unnamed U.S. senior officials saying that sanctions were in the initial stages of planning following Treasury Department investigations of transactions involving Spain’s central bank that violated U.S. restrictions on financial dealings with Venezuela. “Elements of the Socialist party are deeply compromised with the regime in Venezuela,” said Ramon Peralta, a professor of international law at Madrid’s Complutense University, who also teaches courses at several Latin American universities.Former Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero sold eight navy frigates to Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and more recently has become an informal adviser to the Venezuelan government. A diplomat who served as his ambassador to Venezuela, Raul Morodo, has been investigated for corrupt dealings with Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA, which wanted to establish an international headquarters in Madrid.