Published: Sun, May 21, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Venezuela leader: Officials treated like Jews under Nazis

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela's Supreme Court on Thursday as punishment for seizing powers from the opposition-led Congress earlier this year, United States officials said.

Opposition activists accuse the country's President Nicolas Maduro of mismanagement that has led to a deep economic crisis in the country and call for an early election.

Among those hit with sanctions was Maikel Moreno, a Maduro ally who became president of the 32-judge court in February. The protests typically end with state security forces launching tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, some of whom fire back with rocks and gasoline bombs. In February, the US announced it was freezing the assets of Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of playing a major role in worldwide drug trafficking.

Large-scale protests, caused by a complex economic situation and the confrontation between the parliament and the government, have been going on in Venezuela since April.

Word of imminent new sanctions coincided with White House talks on Thursday between Trump and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Venezuela's neighbor.

Uruguay's United Nations ambassador Elbio Rosselli, president of the Security Council for May, said that at this point Uruguay believed the Venezuelan crisis should be handled within the region. "The global community needs to say "respect the human rights of your people" or this is going to go in the direction we've seen so many others go".

The U.S. sanctions, announced Thursday by the Department of Treasury, freeze the assets of eight Venezuelan government officials on the Supreme Court in an effort to support the Venezuelan people "in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance".

Maduro, 54, who narrowly won the election in 2013 after Chavez's death, says he is the victim of an global right-wing conspiracy that has already brought down leftist governments in Brazil, Argentina and Peru in recent years.

The court said the National Assembly was in contempt over vote-buying acc us ations against three lawmakers.

There was no immediate reaction from the Maduro government, but in the past it has disputed that the country's justice system is politicized. It was also hours after Venezuelan authorities prevented a known politician from traveling to NY for a meeting at the United Nations to discuss the crisis.

In March, the Venezuelan Supreme Court temporarily dissolved the National Assembly and assumed the powers of the legislature.

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said he was barred from leaving the country Thursday as he planned to address a United Nations session in NY about the country's escalating violence.

They pledged to work together to help the Venezuelan people.

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