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US slaps sanctions on Venezuela Supreme Court judges

The US has accused judges on Venezuela's Supreme Court of abusing their power, as political upheaval and violence engulfs the country. President Donald Trump has vowed to work with regional allies to solve the violence.

Venezuela Nicolas Maduro Maikel Moreno (Getty Images/F.Parra)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (center), pictured with members of the country's Supreme Court

The US Treasury Department on Thursday blacklisted eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court and close allies of the country's president, Nicolas Maduro.

The sanctions targeted the president of the Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, and the seven other justices who in March signed a ruling effectively stripping the powers of the opposition-controlled congress.

Read more: Venezuela's crisis takes a toll on education

The ruling was met with international condemnation and triggered violent anti-government protests across the country. The court partially reversed the decision later, although demonstrations have continued into their seventh week with at least 43 people dying amid the unrest.

 

"Members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country."

The Treasury Department's action on Thursday marked the second instance where the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials, stripping them of their US-based assets and banning any US business or individual from doing business with them.

In February, the US issued sanctions on Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami , accusing him of being complicit in international drug trafficking.

USA Washington Pressekonferenz Trump und Präsident Santos (Getty Images/AFP/J. Watson)

Trump addressed the crisis in Venezuela during a press conference with Colombia's president

Seeking solutions to Venezuela's turmoil

US President Donald Trump on Thursday pledged to work with South American allies to find a solution to ending the spiraling violence that has engulfed Venezuela for almost two months.

At a joint press conference in Washington with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, Trump said the two countries would work together in pressuring Venezuela to address the anti-government protests and political turmoil.

"A stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere," Trump told reporters. "We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuela problem. It is a very, very horrible problem."

Read more: Venezuela sees a sharp rise in child mortalities

Aside from the recent waves of unrest, Venezuela's economy has for the past two years been marred by recession and currency controls. Once the region's most prosperous country with the world's biggest oil reserves, the government's economic mismanagement saw the inflation rate climb 800 percent in 2016 and slashed the supply of basic goods, such as food and medicine.

"You sort of have to wonder: Why is that happening? How is that possible?" Trump said, expressing dismay over Venezuela's crippled economy. "Hopefully that will change and they can use those assets for the good. Because right now what's happening is really a disgrace to humanity."

dm/gsw (AP, Reuters)

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