Trump administration sanctions Venezuela Supreme Court

By Mike Bambach   |   Updated May 19, 2017 at 7:59 AM
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May 18 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court, accusing them of undermining the nation's democratic process.

The sanctions punished the justices by freezing their assets held in U.S. jurisdictions.

The 32-judge Supreme Court has helped President Nicolás Maduro consolidate his powers in a country mired in economic crisis and violent protests.

The court dissolved the democratically elected National Assembly, allowing Maduro to rule by executive authority, a move it later reversed. That sparked protests that have left more than 40 people dead.

"Members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "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."

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council held a closed-door session over the deteriorating situation in Venezuela at the request of the United States.

"You sort of have to wonder: Why is that happening? How is that possible?" Trump said earlier Thursday. "Hopefully that will change and they can use those assets for the good. Because right now what's happening is really a disgrace to humanity."

He discussed Venezuela's problems during a joint news conference at the White House with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

They pledged to work together to help the Venezuelan people.

"It is really in a very bad state ... like nothing we've seen in quite a long time," Trump said. "America stands with all of the people in our great hemisphere yearning to breathe free."

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