The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced it has added Conviasa (V0, Caracas Simón Bolivar) and its aircraft to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, on the grounds the state-owned airline is used by Nicolas Maduro and his regime to promote its political agenda as well as to shuttle officials to countries such as North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.

In its statement issued on Friday, February 7, OFAC specified Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aereos, S.A. as well as two Dash 7s, one ATR42-400, one ATR42-300, three ATR72-200s, one A319-100(X)(CJ), seven Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravans (operated by Conviasa Regional), one A340-200, three B737-300s, four B737-200Adv.s (including one VIP variant), and sixteen E190s (including a Lineage 1000). According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, some of the aircraft listed are derelict while some are operational.

Although the state-owned carrier and its fleet were already blocked through the issuance of Executive Order 13884 in August last year, their addition to the SDN list ensures strengthened compliance with US sanctions in that US entities/persons may not transact with Conviasa or its aircraft – this includes chartering, contracting, refuelling, or purchasing them – except where authorized.

"Instead of acting as a bridge between peoples, this airline is being used to ferry Maduro and his inner circle to confer with dictators, authoritarian regimes, and other criminals around the world," the US State Department said. "This action increases pressure on Maduro to negotiate seriously and open a path out of the crisis through a transitional government that will lead to free and fair presidential elections."

In response, Venezuela's Vice President (Economy), Tareck El Aissami, has since lambasted the move as being "illegal" and "arbitrary" as well as an "attack" by the US government and its "imperialist" machinery on the Venezuelan people.

"These measures seek to suffocate the Venezuelan people, restricting their right to move nationally and internationally and jeopardize the aeronautical safety of the entire country," he said in a statement. "However, the Bolivarian Government, as well as the workers, crews, and Conviasa administrative staff, reaffirm their unwavering will to continue serving the Venezuelan people and other peoples of the world."

The US has rejected Venezuela's claims that Conviasa's sanctioning will prevent its citizens from travelling abroad, stating that there is still the option of using other unembargoed Venezuelan carriers such as Laser Airlines (QL, Caracas Simón Bolivar), Avior Airlines (9V, Barcelona José Antonio Anzoategui) and Estelar Latinoamerica (ES, Caracas Simón Bolivar).

To mitigate Venezuela's increasing international isolation as well as to stimulate the country's tourism and travel sector, Caracas has committed to transforming Conviasa and its Caracas Simón Bolivar base into an intercontinental connecting hub. To that end, the airline has returned its long inactive A340-200 to airworthiness intending to resume longhaul flights to cities such as Buenos Aires Ezeiza and Damascus. According to Routes Online, however, reservations for the weekly Syrian service for March and April 2020 are no longer available.

Aside from Argentina and Syria, Conviasa listed Algeria, Angola, South Africa, Iran, Lisbon, and Canada as target destinations in 2020.