Treasury sanctions Venezuelans who blocked aid

Treasury sanctions Venezuelans who blocked aid
© Getty Images

The Treasury Department on Friday announced new sanctions against Venezuelan officials who played a role in blocking humanitarian aid from entering the country from Brazil and Colombia over the weekend.

"Former President Nicolas Maduro's border blockades of trucks and ships loaded with humanitarian aid are the latest example of his illegitimate regime weaponizing the delivery of food and critically needed supplies in order to control vulnerable Venezuelans," said Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' MORE in a statement. 


"We are sanctioning members of Maduro's security forces in response to the reprehensible violence, tragic deaths, and unconscionable torching of food and medicine destined for sick and starving Venezuelans," he added.

On Feb, 23, an operation to introduce humanitarian aid into the struggling country, led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, was blockaded by security forces loyal to Maduro.

At least two people died after loyalist paramilitary groups, known as "colectivos," fired on civilians attempting to move food and medicine into Venezuela.

The new sanctions, delivered by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), target top military brass, as well as regional commanders, special forces commanders and the national police.

OFAC listed Maj. Gen. Richard Jesús López Vargas, commander of the Venezuelan National Guard; Maj. Gen. Jesus Maria Mantilla Oliveros, commander for the Guayana region; Gen. Alberto Mirtiliano Bermudez Valderrey, head of the Bolivar State defense zone; Gen. José Leonardo Noroño Torres, head of the Táchira State defense zone; José Miguel Dominguez Ramirez, head of the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) special forces in Táchira; and Col. Cristhiam Abelardo Morales Zambrano, director of the PNB.

Any property held by the sanctioned individuals in the United States must now be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with sanctioned individuals.

The list of individuals connected to Maduro who have been sanctioned has grown rapidly since January, when the United States recognized Guaidó's claim to the presidency.

Treasury last upped sanctions Monday, targeting four state governors allied to Maduro.

Ten days prior to that action, Treasury targeted the heads of Maduro's intelligence service and state-owned oil company.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization of American States (OAS) and most Latin American countries did not recognize the May election that led to Maduro's reelection to a second full six-year term in office.

Guaidó, the elected head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, was sworn in by his allies in a public square after declaring Maduro's reelection illegitimate.

Although Guaidó has recognition from more than 50 countries worldwide, Maduro still controls the Venezuelan government and, crucially, the armed forces.

Venezuelan regime change has become a top-line foreign policy goal for the Trump administration, which this week deployed Vice President Pence on a visit to Colombia to personally meet Guaidó.

While Maduro remains in power, administration officials say the U.S. still has plenty of options in its diplomatic and economic toolkit.

"The United States strongly supports the efforts of Interim President Juan Guaidó, and Treasury will continue to target Maduro loyalists prolonging the suffering of the victims of this man-made humanitarian crisis," said Mnuchin.

--Updated at 10:35 a.m.