CARACAS Venezuela’s leftist government let rip against U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, blasting a fresh round of U.S. sanctions and his strong condemnation of the South American country as relations again sour between the ideological foes.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Thursday as punishment for annulling the opposition-led Congress earlier this year, U.S. officials said.
The new sanctions package was aimed at stepping up pressure on the leftist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his loyalists following a crackdown on street protests and his efforts to consolidate his rule over the South American oil-producing country.
During Maduro’s visit to the White House on Thursday, Trump expressed dismay at how once-booming Venezuela was now mired in poverty, saying “it’s been unbelievably poorly run” and calling the humanitarian situation “a disgrace to humanity.”
Maduro’s government, which had urged the world to give Trump a chance after he was elected, unfurled its strongest condemnation to date of the U.S. leader.
“President Trump’s aggressions against the Venezuelan people, its government and its institutions have surpassed all limits,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a statement on state television, accusing Washington of seeking to destabilize Venezuela and foment foreign intervention.
The statement also accused Washington of financing the Venezuelan opposition while ignoring problems at home like income inequality and rights violations.
“The extreme positions of a government just starting off only confirmed the discriminatory, racist, xenophobic, and genocidal nature of U.S. elites against humanity and its own people, which has now been heightened by this new administration which asserts white Anglo-Saxon supremacy,” the statement said.
Among those hit with sanctions was Maikel Moreno, a Maduro ally who became president of the 32-judge court in February. All of those targeted will have U.S. assets frozen and be denied travel to the United States, while American citizens will be barred from doing business with them, officials said.
A senior U.S. official warned of further action against “bad actors” if there are no changes in the country. But sanctions so far have stopped short of hitting the oil sector in Venezuela, which is a major U.S. oil supplier.
While some analysts see targeted sanctions as heightening pressure on Maduro’s government, others fear they could in fact unite his administration and make any negotiated transition more difficult.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Richard Chang)