The United States has imposed new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s wife and several of his top allies to further increase pressure on the government which is already grappling with an economic crisis.
The sanctions on Tuesday targeted six officials in Maduro’s “inner circle,” including Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, and “blocked” a private jet worth $20 million that is reported to be owned by a front-man of a top official.
On the same day and at a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, US President Donald Trump called on UN members to support a “restoration of democracy” in Venezuela.
“Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty,” Trump said. “We ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”
The Latin American country is under criticism for allegedly limiting the powers of the opposition-run legislature, jailing opposition politicians and creating a parallel congress with unlimited powers–accusations which Maduro vehemently denies.
Maduro, who says US-backed adversaries have launched an “economic war” on him, insists that opposition leaders conspired to assassinate him and sought to overthrow him through violent street demonstrations.
“I’m surrounded by sanctioned (officials),” he said on Tuesday. “Thank you, Donald Trump, for surrounding me with dignity.”
He nevertheless said he hoped to meet with Trump face to face. Last year, the White House responded to a similar request by saying such a meeting would take place if the country returned to democracy.
Pro-government supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro march against US meddling after reports that US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers.
Last year, Washington imposed sanctions prohibiting trading new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and its state oil company PDVSA. It has imposed several rounds of sanctions on government officials, including on Maduro.
Venezuela’s economy has collapsed under Maduro, with annual inflation running at 200,000 percent, and staple foods and basic medicine increasingly difficult to obtain. The situation has triggered a mass migration of Venezuelan nations to neighboring countries.