US sanctions Venezuelan police, military officials for ‘obstructing’ humanitarian aid

US sanctions Venezuelan police, military officials for ‘obstructing’ humanitarian aid
The US Treasury Department has hit six Venezuelan security officials with sanctions, accusing them of “obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries.” The sanctions come just days after penalties on four allies of President Maduro.

The six officials are high-ranking members of Venezuela’s police and military. Among them are National Guard Commander Richard Lopez Vargas, in charge of the officers that blocked the country’s Colombian border to US-supplied aid convoys last weekend. The remaining individuals, the Treasury said, were in some way involved with blocking the aid deliveries.

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While the Trump administration lambasted Maduro for refusing to allow aid convoys to enter Venezuela, Maduro accused the US of supplying aid as a precursor to a military invasion.

Since siding with opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, the United States has stepped up a pressure campaign aimed at removing President Maduro from power, with sanctions a key weapon.

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The Treasury Department sanctioned four pro-Maduro officials on Monday, and one month earlier targeted Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA. The oil sanctions blocked all payments to PDVSA accounts, and have led to a surplus of oil building up in Venezuela and a 40 percent drop in exports, as Maduro struggles to find new buyers.

Despite dealing a hammer blow to the country’s economy with oil sanctions, the US attempted to pass a resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, blaming Maduro for causing an “economic collapse” in Venezuela, and calling for the end of the “regime” in Caracas. Russia and China vetoed the resolution.

Washington will not let up on its push for “a peaceful transition to democracy,” nor will it stop trying to get aid supplies into the crisis-stricken country, US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said after the resolution was voted down.

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