US sanctions 5 Venezuelans

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on top Venezuelan security officials and the head of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA as it ratcheted up pressure on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro over an election it says was illegal.
Along with PDVSA head Manuel Quevedo, Treasury targeted three top Venezuelan intelligence officials and Rafael Bastardo, who US officials say is the head of a national police unit responsible for dozens of extrajudicial killings carried out in masked nighttime raids on Maduro’s behalf.
“We are sanctioning officials in charge of Maduro’s security and intelligence apparatus, which has systematically violated human rights and suppressed democracy, including through torture and other brutal use of force,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Washington has disavowed Maduro’s government and backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month invoked articles of the Venezuelan constitution and declared himself president. Guaido promised to end a humanitarian crisis caused by an economic collapse.
Also targeted was Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala, commander of Maduro’s Presidential Guard, which Treasury says has tortured Maduro’s opponents and carried out other human rights abuses.
Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, director general of the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service, and Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura, first commissioner of the service, also were sanctioned.
Meanwhile, The United States urged countries Friday to block Venezuela’s upcoming chairmanship of the Conference on Disarmament, insisting that having a representative of President Nicolas Maduro preside over the body would be “a travesty”.
US Ambassador Robert Wood addressed the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) to “record my government’s strong opposition to a representative of the former Maduro regime occupying the seat reserved for Venezuela.”
According to a written version of the statement he presented, he voiced particular outrage that Venezuela is due to assume the rotating presidency of the CD at the end of May, just after the US presidency.
“Having a representative of the former Maduro regime presiding over this august body would be a travesty,” Wood said.
The CD is a multilateral disarmament forum that holds three sessions a year. It negotiates arms control and disarmament accords and focuses on the cessation of the nuclear arms race.
— Agencies