U.S. sanctions 13 past and present Venezuelan officials before election

By Allen Cone  |  July 26, 2017 at 4:04 PM
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July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned 13 current and former senior officials of the Venezuelan government -- four days before the socialist country's national election.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control froze their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited U.S. residents from doing business with them, the department said in a release.

President Donald Trump has promised "strong and swift economic actions" if the election for a constitutional convention goes on Sunday.

The government said it is targeting those involved with the election and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's alleged violent suppression of protests, corruption and currency manipulation.

"As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime's ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom, and the rule of law," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "As our sanctions demonstrate, the United States is standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy. Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions."

Maduro has scheduled the vote on the assembly that the Treasury fears "will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions."

"A flawed ANC election process all but guarantees that a majority of the Assembly's members will represent the interests of President Maduro's government," the Treasury Department said.

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan government said the United States is conspiring with Colombia and Mexico to overthrow its administration.

The Treasury sanctioned four Venezuelan officials involved in the election process, and five current and former officials responsible for violently suppressing protests over Maduro's actions were sanctioned.

Up to 15,000 civilians have been wounded, with 3,000 people arrested and 431 political prisoners in detention "without fair and transparent judicial process," according to the Treasury Department.

"Arbitrary arrests are rampant, as is physical abuse against detainees; alleged instances of torture and other violations and abuses of human rights are perpetrated by the Bolivarian National Guard, the Bolivarian National Police, and other security services," the agency said.

Also sanctioned were four individuals associated with two government entities accused of corruption: state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela and the National Center for Foreign Commerce. The Treasury Department said approximately $11 billion went missing from the oil company between 2004 and 2014, according to a report by a Venezuelan congressional commission. It also alleged the black market surrounding the official exchange rate set by commerce center.

In February, the Trump administration imposed financial sanctions against Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged money laundering and drug trafficking.

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