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US sanctions 13 Venezuelan officials ahead of Constituent Assembly election

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on 13 Venezuelan government and military officials and state-run energy company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Wednesday, July 26 that it would sanction 13 Venezuelan government and military officials.

The officials include those involved with the formation of the Constituent Assembly, a body tasked with writing the country’s 18-year old constitution.

Anyone joining the Constituent Assembly could be subject to US sanctions, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on a press call on Wednesday.

The White House has previously said the administration views the July 30 Constituent Assembly election as Maduro’s way of creating a “full dictatorship” in Venezuela.

Earlier, U.S. officials told Reuters that the sanctions would target Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government, including “for alleged human rights abuses and corruption,” but would not affect the country’s oil industry.

Prior to the announcement, Senator Marco Rubio, a proponent of the sanctions, indicated there was more to come.

An administration official said Wednesday that all options were on the table.

“We are trying to look at the impact such options would have … on the Venezuelan people [and] the United States,” the official said.

On June 17, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would take “strong and swift economic actions” if Maduro moves ahead with plans to rewrite the country’s constitution.

“We see July 30 as a critical line that if crossed could be the end of democracy in Venezuela,” the administration official said on Wednesday.

In addition to rewriting the constitution, the body would have the power to dissolve the National Assembly. Critics and opposition leaders also say it could delay the planned 2018 presidential election.

New sanctions will likely make already-frosty relations between the U.S. and Venezuela worse. Maduro has accused the opposition of working with Washington to force him out of power.

Reacting to Trump, Maduro said last week: “No one gives Venezuela orders, no foreign government. Donald Trump is not the boss of Venezuela.”

OFAC released the names of the officials sanctioned on Wednesday:

  • Tibisay Lucena Ramirez, president of the National Electoral Council and President of the National Board of Elections.
  • Elias Jose Jaua Milano, head of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly, also the Education Minister, the Sectoral Vice President of Social Development and the Revolution of Missions, and the former Executive Vice President of Venezuela.
  • Tarek William Saab Halabi, Ombudsman and President of Venezuela’s Republican Moral Council.
  • Maria Iris Varela Rangel, member of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly, and the former Minister of the Penitentiary Service.
  • Nestor Luis Reverol Torres, Minister of Interior, Justice, and Peace, former Bolivarian National Guard Commander General, and former anti-narcotics agency director.
  • Carlos Alfredo Perez Ampueda, Bolivarian National Police director and former Bolivarian National Guard commander (Carabobo Zone).
  • Sergio Jose Rivero Marcano, Bolivarian National Guard Commander General and former National Armed Forces commander (East Integral Strategic Defense Region).
  • Jesus Rafael Suarez Chourio, Bolivarian Army General Commander, former National Armed Forces commander (Central Integral Strategic Defense Region), and former head of the President’s Protection and Security Unit.
  • Franklin Horacio Garcia Duque, former Bolivarian National Police director and former National Armed Forces commander (West Integral Strategic Defense Region).
  • Rocco Albisinni Serrano, president of the National Center for Foreign Commerce (Centro Nacional de Comercio Exterior or CENCOEX).
  • Alejandro Antonio Fleming Cabrera, former CENCOEX president and current Vice Minister for Europe in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Simon Alejandro Zerpa Delgado, PDVSA vice president of finance, president of the Economic and Social Development Bank (BANDES), and president of the National Development Fund (FONDEN).  He is also the Vice Minister of Investment for Development of Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the current or former Presidential Commissioner to the Joint Chinese Venezuelan Fund.
  • Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, former national treasurer and former PDVSA vice president of finance.

Maduro defiant after Trump threatens economic sanctions on Venezuela

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