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Trump admin sanctions 2 senior Venezuelan government officials

By
Darryl Coote

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The Trump administration said it has sanctioned two senior Venezuelan government officials who used their positions to receive kickbacks for selling passports.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said it added Venezuela's Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration Director Gustavo Adolfo Vizcaino Gil and his predecessor, Juan Carlos Dugarte Padron, to its growing list of sanctioned Venezuelan officials on Monday, International Anticorruption Day, "in light of their senior leadership roles in the Maduro regime."

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The Treasury sanctioned them under Executive Order 13692, which permits it to block the dealing of U.S. property of present and former officials of the Venezuelan government.

Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza lambasted the sanctions as "absurd" and proof of the Trump administration's "chronic desperation and disorientation" with regard to Venezuela.

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"Neither unilateral measures nor the economic blockade will stop the sovereign will of the Venezuelan people," he said in a statement.

The State Department accused the two men in a statement of having used their positions within Venezuela's administration "to corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of Venezuelans seeking passport services."

Some of the passports the men sold were to non-Venezuelan citizens, the department said, adding that they even cheated applicants by never giving them their official travel documents despite illicitly charging them thousands of dollars.

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"It is unconscionable that Venezuelans may be unable to obtain a passport or have to pay excessive fees due to corruption, as they continue to flee the devastating conditions in Venezuela that Maduro and his corrupt associates have created," the State Department said. "This is yet another cause of the misery that millions of Venezuelans now suffer."

The Treasury also sanctioned a number of individuals and entities from Latvia, China, Cambodia and Serbia in its targeting of "corrupt actors" on International Anticorruption Day.

"Corruption deprives people of their countries' resources, basic essential services and economic opportunities, while it enriches a select few and facilitates environmental destruction, political instability and conflict," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "On International Anti-Corruption Day, we are targeting actors in Europe, Asia and Latin America who continue through their illicit activities to undermine the foundations of stable, secure and functioning societies."

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The United States has been tightening its diplomatic and financial vises on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro since his 2018 presidential re-election was deemed illegitimate early this year.

U.S. President Donald Trump, along with more than 55 mostly Western counties, has backed opposition leader Juan Guaido to take over as interim president.

International Anticorruption Day has been observed annually by the United States since the United Nations Convention against Corruption was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003.

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