US sanctions six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid


Washington (AFP)

The United States imposed sanctions Friday on six Venezuelan security officials for obstructing aid that Washington had tried to force in as part of its effort to support the country's opposition leader against President Nicolas Maduro.

"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," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The six include Major General Richard Jesus Lopez Vargas, the commander of the Venezuelan National Guard, and Jesus Maria Mantilla Oliveros, commander of a unit tasked by Maduro with reinforcing security on the Brazilian border, the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions freeze any assets in the United States by the six security officials as well as US financial dealings with them.

The United States, backed by Colombia and Brazil, last weekend tried to push badly needed aid into the crisis-torn country in coordination with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom Washington has recognized as interim president.

Venezuelan forces blocked the operation, fearing it was a precursor to an invasion as President Donald Trump has not ruled out the use of force to depose Maduro.

Four people were killed in the ensuing melee and Guaido was stuck outside Venezuela, although he has vowed to return.

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

Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a US and European-backed resolution at the United Nations that would have called for new presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid.