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United States sanctions 8 Venezuelan Supreme Court judges

19 May 2017, 05:32 | Todd Saunders

United States sanctions 8 Venezuelan Supreme Court judges

An anti-government protester holds a shield adorned with an image of independence hero Simon Bolivar and a quote that reads in Spanish

An anti-government protester wearing a Venezuelan flag picks up a tear gas canister fired by security forces trying to disperse an opposition demonstration in Caracas on Thursday.

Anti-government protesters march to the Interior Ministry in Caracas on Wednesday.

Anti-government protesters stand around burning tires serving as a road barricade, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Protesters are demanding elections to kick out the socialist government that they accuse of wrecking the economy and turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. The protest in Caracas come. The protests typically end with state security forces launching tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, some of whom fire back with rocks and gasoline bombs. The protest in Caracas comes after a.

Another sanctioned magistrate, Calixto Ortega, is a long-time diplomat who was sent by Maduro in 2014 to Aruba to negotiate the release of a retired army general who had been arrested on a US drug warrant.

Among those targeted is Maikel Moreno, the president of the pro-government Supreme Court, which issued a ruling in late March.

There was swift and widespread worldwide condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, which the opposition won in late 2015 during an unprecedented economic and social crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet, and the decision was later partially reversed.

"The Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government's mismanagement and corruption", Steven Mnuchin, the United States treasury secretary, said in a statement.

The U.S. move marks the second round of sanctions Trump has imposed on high-level Venezuelan officials since taking office.

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Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez accused the United States of encouraging violent elements within Venezuela seeking to topple the Maduro government.

Trump's administration has repeatedly raised concerns that Maduro is moving toward one-party, authoritarian rule.

"Venezuela is a mess", Trump said on Thursday.

"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?

The US treasury department has in the past sanctioned Venezuelan officials or former officials, charging them with trafficking or corruption, a designation that allows their assets in the US to be frozen and bars them from conducting financial transactions through the US.

Human Rights advocates say Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro exerts controls over the judiciary. One was the approval of Maduro's budget and his appointment of two government sympathizers to the National Electoral Council, decisions that are supposed to require National Assembly approval.

Moreno, while not directly involved in those decisions, has defended them and from the bench also upheld a almost 14-year sentence for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a day after Trump called for his release at a White House meeting with Lopez's wife. The late Venezuelan leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez, was quick to fill the Supreme Court with his supporters more than a decade ago.

The agency said the justices were responsible for a number of rulings in the past year that have usurped the authority of Venezuela's democratically-elected legislature, the National Assembly.

The new sanctions come as Maduro is facing increasing global pressure to hold elections.

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