US hits four more Venezuelan officials with sanctions

The Trump administration on Friday slapped sanctions on four current and former high-ranking military officials in Venezuela, saying the men were helping promote “corruption and repression” in the troubled South American country.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Treasury said it was freezing the U.S. assets of the four officials and barring U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

The sanctions cover Rodolfo Clemente Marco Torres, the governor of Aragua and the former minister of finance; Francisco Jose Rangel Gomez, the former governor of Bolivar; Gen. Fabio Enrique Zavarse Pabon, a commander in the armed forces and Maj. Gen. Gerardo Jose Izquierdo Torres, the executive secretary of the presidential border commission.

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The U.S. Treasury Department is accusing the men of using their positions of power to enrich themselves, even as Venezuela is trapped in a deep economic crisis featuring hyperinflation and sporadic food and medicine shortages.

“President [Nicolás] Maduro and his inner circle continue to put their own interests above those of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “This action underscores the United States’ resolve to hold Maduro and others engaged in corruption in Venezuela accountable.”

The military has become increasingly powerful since Maduro took office in 2013 and controls much of the economy.

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The United States has sanctioned more than 20 current and former Venezuelan officials in recent months, including Maduro. The White House has prohibited U.S. banks from purchasing new Venezuelan debt, a deep blow for the country’s finances.

In Friday’s statement, Mnuchin asked other nations “to join us as we stand with the Venezuelan people to further isolate this oppressive regime.”

Maduro has long accused Washington and its allies of trying to illegally topple his socialist administration.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and longtime critic of the Venezuelan government, applauded the move.

“While the Maduro regime continues to repress the rights of Venezuelans, the United States stands firmly on the side of the Venezuelan people,” he said in a statement. “As part of ongoing efforts to support their desire to restore democracy and the rule of law, I applaud today’s announcement by the Trump administration to impose new sanctions against four corrupt Venezuelan government officials.”

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