Venezuela blasts US reward offer for capture of top official

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's government blasted a $5 million US reward offer for information leading to the arrest of the country's Supreme Court president, likening it to something out of the Wild West.

Washington "disrespects the Supreme Court of Justice, in the person of its president, Maikel Moreno, through false accusations and the offer of rewards in the style of the cowboys and the wild and far west," the foreign ministry said late Tuesday.

Venezuela "rejects once again the illegal and coercive actions of the Donald Trump government against the Venezuelan people and its constitutional institutions," it said.

US Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo had earlier announced the reward for information on Moreno, a key figure in the Venezuelan power structure whom the US accuses of corruption.

Moreno has been on the Treasury Department's black list since 2017.

According to Pompeo, the Supreme Court president has received bribes in recent years to influence his decisions.

Considered loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, the Supreme Court in 2017 neutralized the country's only opposition-controlled branch of government, the National Assembly, declaring it in contempt and nullifying its decisions.

The National Assembly speaker, Juan Guaido, has led an opposition challenge to Maduro's leadership, declaring himself acting president 18 months ago in a move backed by the US and more than 50 countries.

Washington has since targeted Maduro and top Venezuelan officials with a raft of sanctions in a bid to force the socialist leader from power.

The United States, like many international observers and the Venezuelan opposition, considers Maduro's 2018 re-election to have been fraudulent.

Crisis-wracked Venezuela has been in recession for nearly seven years and has the highest rate of inflation in the world, while millions live in poverty.