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U.S. Treasury Department Imposes Sanctions on Venezuelan Supreme Court

A protester demonstrates against the Venezuelan government outside the Organization of American States during a special meeting in April. The Trump administration has imposed economic sanctions on members of the country's Supreme Court.

The U.S. Treasury Department is freezing the assets of eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court of Justice as a result of rulings that the U.S. says have usurped the power of that country's democratically elected National Assembly.

The sanctions were announced in a statement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin:

"The Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government's mismanagement and corruption. Members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority. 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."

As reported in the Two-Way, the economic and political crisis in Venezuela has sparked weeks of unrest.

In March, the Venezuelan Supreme Court temporarily dissolved the National Assembly and assumed the powers of the legislature. The high court is dominated by loyalists of President Nicolas Maduro.

That action, which was later reversed in the face of international criticism and street protests, was one of a half-dozen rulings by the court that U.S. officials say "interfere with or limit the National Assembly's authority."

Among those sanctioned is Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, president of the Supreme Court. His assets within U.S. jurisdiction and those of seven other justices have been frozen and U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with them.

The announcement came not long after President Trump addressed the Venezuelan crisis in remarks at the White House with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

"When you look at the oil reserves that they have, when you look at the potential wealth that Venezuela has, you sort of have to wonder, why is that happening? How is that possible? But it's been unbelievably poorly run for a long period of time. And hopefully that will change," said Trump.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan leaders. In February, the target was Vice President Tareck El Aissami, whom U.S. officials accuse of being involved in international drug trafficking.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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