Trump Admin Readies Sanctions Against Venezuelan Autocrats

U.S. to put pressure on socialist officials as nation teeters on verge of 'humanitarian crisis'

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 19 May 2017 at 6:56 AM

The Trump administration is readying new action against members of Venezuela’s increasingly authoritative, socialist ruling regime for further eroding national democratic institutions.

The sanctions would fall on certain members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court for a March decision that stripped the Venezuelan National Assembly of virtually all power.

“These are the people who have helped this coup override the democratic order in Venezuela and should be punished for what they have done.”

The court is packed with judges loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“They call it the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, and it’s packed — literally packed —with puppets who do [Maduro’s] bidding,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday. Rubio was making the case on the Senate floor for the exact sort of sanctions the White House is readying against the Venezuelan judges.

“The Supreme Court of Venezuela is led by a murderer. Think about it for a moment,” said Rubio, referring to Judge Maikel Moreno, president of Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

"A condemned criminal presides over the Supreme Court of Venezuela. That is why I am not surprised that the members of the court have approved Maduro's illegitimate attempt to seize power. And they have created a political and humanitarian crisis," Rubio continued.

Rubio called out other judges on the court by name in addition to Moreno, identifying Calixto Ortega, Arcadio Delgado, Federico Fuenmayor, Carmen Zuleta, Lourdes Suarez Anderson, and Juan José Mendoza specifically.

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"These are the people who have helped this coup override the democratic order in Venezuela and should be punished for what they have done," said Rubio. "I hope that President Trump in the next few days and weeks take[s] action against these individuals ... who have plunged this nation and people into a constitutional, humanitarian and economic crisis," Rubio said.

The situation has clearly caught Trump's attention.

"From the humanitarian standpoint, [the situation in Venezuela] is like nothing we've seen in a very long time," the president said Thursday during a joint news conference at the White House with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.

On Wednesday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in Venezuela, a potential clue sanctions were imminent.

"In Venezuela, we are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis," Haley said prior to the meeting.

"Peaceful protestors have been injured, arrested, and even killed by their own government. Medicine is unavailable, hospitals lack supplies, and it's become difficult to find food," she continued.

The South American country has seen hundreds of thousands of people partake in near-daily protests following the Supreme Court's late-March ruling, many of which were significantly violent. Government forces have detained over 2,000 people — hundreds of others have been injured, and so far more than 40 have been killed.

Rubio commended the move to pursue sanctions made by the administration, saying in a prepared statement that the step "sends a clear message to the people of Venezuela that we are firmly on their side."

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