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Over the past two years the Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of individuals, including President Nicolas Maduro, on allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses.
But until now it had spared key leaders like Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, as well as the U.S.-trained Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, believing they occupy seats of power and could play a key role in an eventual transition.
Under the latest sanctions, the U.S. barred Americans from doing business with and will seize any financial assets in the U.S. belonging to First Lady Cilia Flores, as well as Rodriguez and Padrino. The sanctions were also slapped on Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez.
As part of the actions announced Tuesday, the Treasury Department also seized a $20 million private jet belonging to an alleged front man for powerful socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello.
“We are continuing to designate loyalists who enable Maduro to solidify his hold on the military and the government while the Venezuelan people suffer,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “Treasury will continue to impose a financial toll on those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and the networks and front-men they use to mask their illicit wealth.”
Trump, arriving at the United Nations General Assembly before his speech Tuesday, said Venezuela is “a very sad case and we want to see it fixed. What’s happening there is a human tragedy.”
Beyond rallying Maduro’s opponents, it’s unclear what impact the sanctions will have. For over a year, top U.S. officials have struggled to build support for more sweeping oil sanctions, facing resistance from energy companies still active in the country and fearing it could tip the OPEC nation over the edge at a time of hyperinflation and widespread food and medicine shortages.