Treasury sanctions top Maduro allies in Venezuela

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Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro is shown in a November 2018 file photo.

The Treasury Department on Friday announced new sanctions against top Venezuelan officials in President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

The latest round of sanctions blocks assets connected to four officials within the Venezuelan security and intelligence apparatus, and the president of the national oil company.

“Treasury continues to target officials who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress the Venezuelan people. We are sanctioning officials in charge of Maduro’s security and intelligence apparatus, which has systematically violated human rights and suppressed democracy, including through torture and other brutal use of force,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.  

Treasury sanctioned Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala, the commander of Maduro’s Presidential Guard and Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence; Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, director general of the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service (SEBIN); Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura, first commissioner of SEBIN; Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza, commander of the Venezuelan National Police Special Actions Force (FAES); and Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernandez, president of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

The Trump administration has been intensifying sanctions on Venezuelan officials as part of a pressure campaign to encourage Maduro to step down from power, but has stopped short of enforcing a full oil embargo on the embattled South American country.

The United States was also among the first countries to recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s claim to the presidency.

Guaidó, the president of the unicameral National Assembly, took an oath of office as president of Venezuela last month, arguing that Maduro’s reelection was unconstitutional.

Several countries, including Colombia, Brazil and most major European powers, have joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaidó’s legitimacy, but Maduro retains control of most government institutions.

Under the new sanctions, the United States is stepping up its policy of alienating Maduro and cutting off his government’s access to foreign assets.

“We are intent on going after those facilitating Maduro’s corruption and predation, including by sanctioning the President of PdVSA and others diverting assets that rightfully belong to the people of Venezuela,” said Mnuchin.

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