US Treasury slaps sanctions on 8 Venezuela court justices

"By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country".

Maduro's critics say it is outrageous for officials to spend money on foreign travel when people are struggling to obtain food and children are dying for lack of basic medicines.

The eight named for sanctions include the president of the Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, and the seven principal members of the court's Constitutional Chamber.

In a separate Russian-Venezuelan development, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said on Thursday that the Russian oil giant received a stake in Citgo, the US refining and marketing unit of embattled Venezuelan state company PDVSA, as collateral when the Russian company made pre-payment to the Venezuelan group for oil supplies.

Trump described Venezuela's current state as a "disgrace to humanity".

Senator Ted Cruz was among the first USA lawmakers to react to news of the sanctions.

The 2009 budget reiterated support and continued funding for the Organization of American States in order to deploy teams of "democracy practitioners" to Venezuela and Bolivia where they say "democracy is threatened by the growing presence of alternate concepts such as "participatory democracy". "Members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority", U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.

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A senior administration official could not detail how much those frozen assets are worth, if anything. "And hopefully that will change", said Trump.

According to United Nations sources, poverty rates in Venezuela were nearing 60 percent before 1998, and by 2015 were halved to less than 30 percent in spite of an economic crisis triggered by falling oil prices.

He said Venezuela prefers the regional approach, noting that Pope Francis has offered help and the former presidents of the Dominican Republic, Spain and Panama are talking to both sides.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela 's Supreme Court on Thursday as punishment for annulling the opposition-led Congress earlier this year, USA officials said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has likened the harassment of government officials and their families outside of Venezuela to the treatment of Jews under the Nazis. "Those folks should be on the lookout for further actions".

She said the order was one more example of USA attempts to destabilize Venezuela's government, adding that Maduro strongly backs the Supreme Court magistrates who are "victims of US imperial power".

The U.S. move marks the second round of sanctions Trump has imposed on high-level Venezuelan officials since taking office. More than 40 people have been killed in nearly two months of unrest in Venezuela. The country faces severe hunger and a public health crisis, but the president has refused entry to any humanitarian aid. Earlier Thursday, the US leader expressed dismay about Venezuela's troubles, asking aloud how a nation holding the world's largest oil reserves could be stricken by so much poverty and turmoil. The foreign ministers of Latin America are also gathering in two weeks in Washington for a special meeting on the South American nation's troubles.


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