US slaps sanctions on Venezuela's foreign minister, judge

Sanctions come as US seeks to increase pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

    Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza holds a picture while speaking during the United Nations Security Council meeting about the situation in Venezuela [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
    Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza holds a picture while speaking during the United Nations Security Council meeting about the situation in Venezuela [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

    The US Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on Venezuela's foreign minister and a Venezuelan judge, according to a statement on the department's website.

    Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and a judge, Carol Padilla, were targeted over the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, the Treasury Department said, the latest in a list of officials blacklisted by US authorities for their role in President Nicolas Maduro's government.

    The designation of Arreaza and Judge Carol Bealexis Padilla de Arretureta freezes any assets they have in the United States and prohibits any US citizens or entities from having financial dealings with them.

    Arreaza is a prominent figure in the Maduro government who has represented Venezuela at the United Nations amid the deep political and economic crisis in the South American country.

    The judge approved the jailing of an opposition politician last year in connection with an apparent assassination attempt of the president.

    She reportedly also approved the detention of a top aide to the opposition head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido.

    Guaido, who is backed by the US, argues that Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate. Guaido, in January, invoked the country's Constitution to declared himself interim president - a move Maduro called an attempted coup. 

    The sanctions are aimed at increasing pressure on Maduro and senior officials in his government.

    Pressure on Maduro

    Washington recognised the Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido as the South American nation's interim president and has asked Maduro, a socialist in power since 2013, to step down.

    "The United States will not stand by and watch as the illegitimate Maduro regime starves the Venezuelan people of their wealth, humanity, and right to democracy," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. 

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    "Treasury will continue to target corrupt Maduro insiders, including those tasked with conducting diplomacy and carrying out justice on behalf of this illegitimate regime," he added in the statement.

    Adding them to the list is part of an effort by the Trump administration to press Maduro to leave office.

    Separately, Venezuela's opposition-run National Assembly said on Friday that opposition politician Gilber Caro had been arrested, which it said in a Twitter post was a violation of his parliamentary immunity.

    Caro had previously been jailed along with hundreds of other activists involved in protests against Maduro, according to human rights groups.

    More than 50 other governments, in addition to the US, view Maduro's re-election last year as illegitimate and have recognised Guaido as interim president.

    SOURCE: News agencies