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US slaps sanctions on Venezuela Supreme Court judges

20 May 2017

Venezuelan protesters are demanding elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature.

Over 40 people have been killed during protests that have been sweeping across Venezuela since April 4.

Clashes have erupted across the country during protests in anger at Maduro's handling of an economic and political crisis. All of those targeted will have USA assets frozen and be denied travel to the United States, while American citizens will be barred from doing b us iness with them, officials said.

Venezuela presents a "very, very frightful problem" for the entire hemisphere, and the ongoing unrest there that's left dozens dead and hundreds injured was "nothing like what we've seen for a long time", Trump said, adding that the USA stood with those "yearning to be free".

Despite its vast oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies.

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Security forces fired tear gas at stone-throwing gangs, and crowds smashed their way into shops and offices in San Cristobal, the state capital, and elsewhere. "And from a humanitarian standpoint, it is like nothing we've seen in quite a long time", Trump said.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have participated in near-daily anti-government street demonstrations since the Supreme Court's ruling in late March.

Uruguay's United Nations ambassador Elbio Rosselli, president of the Security Council for May, said that at this point Uruguay believed the Venezuelan crisis should be handled within the region.

With the latest sanctions, the USA government said the court members were being targeted because they had "usurped the authority of Venezuela's democratically elected legislature".

Trump described Venezuela's current state as a "disgrace to humanity". In February, the United States blacklisted Venezuela n Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged links to drug trafficking.

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Deaths, which are often captured on cellphone cameras and shared widely online, will probably further isolate Venezuela's government from global public opinion.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned on Wednesday that if the situation was left to escalate it could lead to a major global crisis like in Syria.

She said the sanctions are proof of "the United States authority and leadership in the destabilization of Venezuela". "This announcement should be encouraging to the people of Venezuela that they are not alone".

In March, the court explicitly stated it was assuming the congress' role in a ruling authorizing Maduro to create oil joint ventures without the previously mandated congressional approval.

Rubio said he hopes Trump will impose further sanctions in the future. The Organization of Americas States will hold an emergency ministerial meeting on May 31 to address the crisis.

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