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US sanctions Venezuelan bank after Guaidó aide's arrest

The Trump administration on Friday announced new sanctions against Venezuela's national development bank after an aide to opposition leader Juan Guaidó was arrested this week.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is imposing sanctions on the Venezuelan bank and its subsidiaries, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying they have become "vehicles" to "prop up" Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

"The willingness of Maduro's inner-circle to exploit Venezuela's institutions knows no bounds. Regime insiders have transformed BANDES and its subsidiaries into vehicles to move funds abroad in an attempt to prop up Maduro," Mnuchin said in a statement, referring to Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES).

"The regime's continued use of kidnapping, torture, and murder of Venezuelan citizens will not be tolerated by the U.S. or the international coalition that is united behind President Guaidó," Mnuchin added.

The statement said that any property in the U.S. or owned by U.S. citizens, where BANDES or its subsidiaries have a controlling interest, is now "blocked."

The Treasury secretary reiterated that Roberto Marrero, Guaidó's chief-of-staff, and other political prisoners in Venezuela "must be released immediately."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Marrero's release on Thursday after the Guaidó aide was detained by Maduro's security forces. 

Guaidó declared himself Venezuela's interim president in January, escalating a political battle with Maduro, who still claims the presidency.

President Trump and several other world leaders have recognized Guaidó's leadership in Venezuela amid an economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.

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