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article imageUS unveils fresh Venezuela sanctions, targets 10 officials

By AFP     Nov 9, 2017 in World

The United States on Thursday unveiled fresh sanctions against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, targeting 10 officials over alleged corruption and interference in gubernatorial elections last month.

The new sanctions come as EU member states prepare to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, whose leftist government has sought to tighten its grip on power amid a prolonged economic and political crisis.

The sanctions were in response to October 15 state elections in which pro-Maduro candidates unexpectedly won a majority of governorships.

The US Treasury Department said irregularities "strongly suggest fraud" was used to elect Maduro candidates.

"As the Venezuelan government continues to disregard the will of its people, our message remains clear: the United States will not stand aside while the Maduro regime continues to destroy democratic order and prosperity in Venezuela," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions named government ministers and members of Venezuela's National Electoral Council.

The Treasury Department said the October elections were held amid censorship, the abuse of state media and corruption extending to the distribution of food.

Among those designated under US sanctions were the vice president of Venezuela's National Electoral Council, Sandra Oblitas Ruzza, and Elvis Eduardo Hidrobo Amoroso, second vice president of the country's new Constituent Assembly, which the Washington deems illegitimate.

Also named were Culture Minister and former Information Minister Ernesto Emilio Villegas Poljak, the head of Venezuela’s state telephone utility Manuel Angel Fernandez Melendez, Urban Agriculture Minister Freddy Alirio Bernal Rosales and current ambassador to Italy Julian Isaias Rodriguez Diaz.

The sanctions effectively freeze those named out of much of the global banking system, requiring most international banks not to process transactions on their behalf, and block their access to any assets under US jurisdiction.

Sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration in August banned US trade in any new bonds issued by the Venezuelan government or state oil company PDVSA -- a needed step in any restructuring of the oil-rich country's debt.

The embattled government in Caracas announced last week it was calling a meeting of creditors for November 13 to try to restructure its foreign debt, estimated at $150 billion.

The move came the same day the International Monetary Fund said it was sanctioning the government for failing to provide economic data, as all IMF member states are required to do.

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