Published: Thu, September 27, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

US slaps sanctions on top Venezuelan officials, including President Maduro’s wife

US slaps sanctions on top Venezuelan officials, including President Maduro’s wife

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is willing to meet with Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, while hinting at other avenues for resolving the tension between the two countries.

The president's comments come after he blamed Maduro's socialist regime for Venezuela's economic crisis and mass poverty.

The sanctions would freeze any assets that a blacklisted person holds under US jurisdiction and ban any USA individuals or companies from making business transactions with them.

More world leaders step up to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday but the lion's share of attention will be down the hall where U.S. President Donald Trump will be chairing the Security Council.

Maduro hit back on Venezuelan television, calling the sanctions a badge of honor for those around him.

Venezuela considers rounds of "illegal" sanctions against it to be acts of "economic war", and blames the USA for the collapse of its economy.

Trump said the new sanctions would target Maduro's inner circle and close advisers.

Human Rights Watch was among those hailing the request, which was based on two reports: one by the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights that uncovered widespread extrajudicial executions and other violations, and another by an expert group designated by the Organization of American States that found reason to suspect 11 people, including Maduro, of crimes against humanity.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence separately said on Tuesday the United States would provide an additional $48 million to "partners in the region" to confront the "humanitarian crisis" caused by the growing migration of Venezuelans.

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Maduro has been seeking a meeting with Trump for nearly two years and has watched with frustration as the USA leader has talked with American adversaries like North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin while shunning Venezuelan entreaties.

Venezuela pointed to a report in the NY times that claimed Washington had been holding secret talks with mutinous military figures throughout a year ago as evidence that the United States is working to "encourage and promote violent actions of extremist factions".

"Trump has said he's anxious about Venezuela and wants to help", Maduro said.

Maduro's arrival came as Venezuela was taking a thrashing. He denies limiting political freedoms, insisting opposition leaders have plotted assassination attempts and sought to overthrow him through violent street protests.

For over a year, top US 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.

Maduro had not attended the U.N. General Assembly since 2015.

Separately, several Latin American nations plan to present a complaint against Maduro's government for alleged human rights abuses with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Peruvian Trade Minister Roger Valencia said in an interview.

"It's a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that", said the US President in reply to a journalist. But, given the country's divided opposition and a mostly loyal military, even that ramped-up USA pressure is unlikely to be enough to end the rule of President Nicolás Maduro anytime soon.

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