US imposes sanctions on Venezuelan foreign minister

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The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as it tries to ramp up pressure to remove President Nicolas Maduro.

“The United States will not stand by and watch as the illegitimate Maduro regime starves the Venezuelan people of their wealth, humanity and right to democracy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing that any US assets of Arreaza would be blocked.

The sanctions are the latest slapped by the United States against senior figures in Venezuela as it seeks to install in power Juan Guaido, the opposition leader.

But while most previous sanction announcements alleged corruption or rights violations by the officials, the Treasury Department did not cite specific violations by Arreaza, instead saying he was targeted for his role as foreign minister.

“Treasury will continue to target corrupt Maduro insiders, including those tasked with conducting diplomacy and carrying out justice on behalf of this illegitimate regime,” Mnuchin said.

Arreaza, responding on Twitter, linked the sanctions to his call at the United Nations the previous day against the US “criminal blockade” of Venezuela, saying the reaction he heard had shown him “that we walk the right path.”

“Today, the Trump administration responds with desperation against us. TRUTH hurts!” he tweeted.

Arreaza, a former journalist who studied at Cambridge, has traveled several times to New York to represent Venezuela at the United Nations since the United States and most Latin American countries in January declared Maduro to be illegitimate.