US Treasury sanctions Venezuelan leader's top aide Cabello

Washington (AFP) –


The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's powerful deputy Diosdado Cabello, just two days before the crisis-hit country goes to the polls for an election Maduro is widely expected to win.

Cabello, a Socialist party boss and former speaker of the National Assembly, was targeted along with his wife, brother and an associate deemed a front man acting on Cabello's behalf.

"The Venezuelan people suffer under corrupt politicians who tighten their grip on power while lining their own pockets," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"We are imposing costs on figures like Diosdado Cabello who exploit their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities."

While Washington has imposed increasingly heavy pressure on Caracas, the US Treasury had left Cabello untouched until Friday, seemingly lagging behind the actions of other governments.

Swiss and EU authorities had already blacklisted Cabello earlier this year, citing grave human rights abuses.

The US sanctions, however, can be paralyzing, freezing their targets out of much of the global financial system in addition to blocking any access to US-based assets.

The Treasury also accused Cabello of working with other blacklisted individuals to move narcotics from Venezuela to Europe via the Dominican Republic, while moving cash back in the opposite direction to that country, as well as to Panama and the Bahamas.

In addition to blacklisting the individuals, the US Treasury also blocked access to three companies in Florida allegedly controlled by Cabello associate Rafael Alfredo Sarria Diaz.

Treasury also blocked 14 Sarria-controlled properties in Florida and New York.