US imposes sanctions on Venezuelan Foreign Minister, judge; steps up pressure on Maduro regime

Washington: Stepping up pressure on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro to resign, US on Friday imposed sanctions and froze assets of the crisis-hit country’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza and a judge, Carol Padilla, known for playing a prominent role in the Maduro government.

In a statement, the US Department of State said it had sanctioned “two officials aligned with the former Maduro regime pursuant to Executive Order 13962, which allows for the designation of any person determined to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela.”

Arreaza is at the forefront of the former Maduro regime’s attempts within the international community to thwart the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people.

Judge Padilla’s designation is a reminder that the ongoing detention of Robert Marrero and the acts of intimidation against President Guaido and his supporters by the former Maduro regime will have consequences. We demand his immediate release,” the statement read.

“If Nicolas Maduro and those aligned with him continue to use imprisonment and intimidation against the legitimate government and people of Venezuela, the United States will respond. With our democratic partners in the region and around the world, the United States will continue to support interim President Guaido, the National Assembly, and the people of Venezuela,” it added.

Washington recognised the Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido as the legitimate ruler of the South American nation in January and asked Maduro, a socialist in power since 2013, to step down.

The designations came after the Venezuelan National Assembly earlier on Friday announced on Twitter that opposition politician Gilber Caro was arrested for his involvement in anti-Maduro protests, a move viewed as a violation of his parliamentary immunity.

Al Jazeera reported that the foreign minister and the judge made to the latest names in a fresh list of officials blacklisted by the United States and prohibiting any US citizens or entities from having financial dealings with them.

Earlier, Arreaza had represented Venezuela at the United Nations amid the deep political and economic crisis in the South American country.

While the judge approved imprisonment of an opposition politician last year in connection with an apparent assassination attempt of Maduro. She also reportedly approved the detention of a top aide to Guaido.