The United States imposed sanctions Monday on the governors of four Venezuelan states aligned with embattled President Nicolas Maduro for standing in the way of humanitarian aid shipments.
The action came after a weekend of bloody clashes on the Venezuelan border as security forces beat back attempts by supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido to bring in US-donated supplies of food and medicine.
Four people were killed and hundreds injured in the border violence.
“The illegitimate Maduro regime’s attempts to blockade international aid intended for the Venezuelan people are shameful,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“Treasury is targeting four state governors aligned with former President Maduro for standing in the way of severely needed humanitarian assistance and prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” he said in a statement.
Mnuchin said Washington “fully supports” Guaido and his efforts “to address the endemic corruption, human rights abuses, and violent repression that has become the hallmark of the illegitimate Maduro regime.”
Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis following years of recession and hyperinflation that have left shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Guaido says 300,000 people face death if those supplies aren’t brought in urgently but Maduro refuses to let it enter, claiming it would be a smokescreen to a US invasion.
The latest sanctions come as the Lima Group is meeting in the Colombian capital Bogota to find a way to facilitate delivery of the aid, and find a way to deal with the crisis.
Under the sanctions, Treasury will seize any US property owned by the governors and prohibit anyone using the US financial system from having business dealings with them.
The targeted governors include, Omar Jose Prieto Fernandez, who leads Zulia state, where much of the nation’s petroleum industry is based, and Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, head of Vargas state, adjacent to Caracas, where the nation’s main airport is located.