US Treasury slaps sanctions on six Venezuelan security officials for blocking aid
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US Treasury slaps sanctions on six Venezuelan security officials for blocking aid

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the announcement on Friday, claiming that the sanctions were in response to the suppression of anti-government protests in Venezuela and the torching of the US aid at the Colombian border last weekend. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly denounced the so-called humanitarian assistance as a US plot to disguise an intervention in his country. "We are sanctioning members of Maduro's security forces in response to the reprehensible violence, tragic deaths, and unconscionable torching of food and medicine destined for sick and starving Venezuelans," Mnuchin said in a statement. Among the six sanctioned Venezuelan officials are Major General Richard Jesus Lopez Vargas, the commander of the Venezuelan National Guard, and Jesus Maria Mantilla Oliveros, commander of a unit tasked by Maduro with reinforcing security on the Brazilian border. The US sanctions would freeze the assets held by the targeted individuals in the US and would ban US financial dealings with them. Mnuchin also reaffirmed Washington’s support for opposition leader Juan Guaido and said the US Treasury would continue to target those loyal to Maduro with further sanctions. Earlier in the week, the United States targeted four Venezuelan state governors allied with Maduro and called for a freeze on the assets of state-owned oil company PDVSA. The country has been in political turmoil over the past year. The opposition has been holding widespread anti-government protests, blaming Maduro for the ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items. After months of economic and political clashes, Venezuela plunged further into chaos in January after Guaido, the former head of the country’s National Assembly, proclaimed himself “interim president” and urged Maduro and his legitimate government to resign. This while Maduro had just begun his second six-year term in office after a decisive election victory over the US-backed opposition. Washington rushed to support Guaido and imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry. US President Donald Trump and other American officials have also threatened Caracas with military action. Maduro’s government has closed borders with Brazil and Colombia in order to block what the US says are aid shipments. Russia, which supports Maduro, has warned that Washington is using the aid scenario as a cover to arm Guaido and his supporters and lay the foundation for a coup. The latest sanctions came a day after Russia and China vetoed a US and European-backed resolution at the United Nations that would have called for new presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid.

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