• Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019
  • Last Update : 12:14 am

US sanctions Venezuela officials, Trump slams Maduro

  • Published at 06:33 pm September 26th, 2018
2018-06-25_VENEZUELA-POLITICS-Nicolas Maduro
File Photo: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a military parade to celebrate the 197th anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo, next to his wife Cilia Flores and Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, in Campo de Carabobo, Venezuela June 24, 2018 Reuters

Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina will be joined by Canada in submitting the initiative against Venezuela's government, according to two officials familiar with the plans

The United States imposed new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's wife and several of his top allies on Tuesday as US President Donald Trump urged members of the United Nations to support a "restoration of democracy" in the once-booming OPEC nation.

The measure sanctioned six officials in Maduro's "inner circle," including Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, and "blocked" a $20 million private jet identified as belonging to a front-man of a top official.

The move adds pressure to a government already widely criticized for economic collapse and undermining democracy. But it does not materially change Washington's efforts to pressure Socialist Party stalwarts who have shown no willingness to hand over power or negotiate a transition.

"Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty," Trump said in remarks to the United Nations General Assembly.

"We ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," he said.

Separately, a group of Latin American nations will present a complaint in New York on Wednesday against the Maduro administration for alleged human rights abuses to be investigated by the International Criminal Court, officials said.

Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina will be joined by Canada in submitting the initiative against Venezuela's government, according to two officials familiar with the plans.

Under Maduro, Venezuela has limited the powers of the opposition-run legislature, jailed opposition politicians and created a parallel congress with unlimited powers.

Inflation is running at 200,000% and basic foods and medicines, like rice and antibiotics, are increasingly difficult to obtain. That has fuelled an exodus of Venezuelans to nearby Latin American countries, where borders are now overwhelmed by Venezuelan migrants.

Maduro says he is the victim of an "economic war" led by US-backed adversaries. He denies limiting political freedoms, insisting opposition leaders have plotted assassination attempts and sought to overthrow him through violent street protests.

On Tuesday, he said Trump's comments were an apology for America's history of colonialism in the region and offered words of support for the sanctioned officials who joined him during an event broadcast over state television.

"I'm surrounded by sanctioned (officials)," he said. "Thank you, Donald Trump, for surrounding me with dignity."

He nonetheless said he hoped to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Trump. The White House responded to a similar request last year by saying such a meeting would happen when the country returned to democracy.

The Trump administration has levied several rounds of sanctions against Maduro's government since 2017.