Venezuelan leader to Trump: "'Get your pig hands out of here"

20 May, 2017, 11:33 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Anti-government protesters are met with tear gas fired by security forces as they try to march to the Interior Ministry in Caracas Venezuela Thursday

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, USA officials said.

The U.S. government said the judges were being targeted because they had "usurped" democratic authority. Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela's Supreme Court, and among those sanctioned by the USA government, said Friday that Trump's executive order was an attempt to impose its authority over Venezuela's institutions and compromise the judicial branch's independence.

"It is beyond appalling that President Maduro would invoke the Holocaust in an effort to protect himself and his regime, and to attack and defame the opposition", Dina Siegel Vann - the American Jewish Committee's director of Latino and Latin American Affairs - said in a statement.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez took to Twitter late on Thursday to call the U.S. sanctions "outrageous and unacceptable".

USA officials have expressed concern about Russia's growing role in Venezuela, which also purchases Russian arms.

US President Donald Trump has described Venezuela's crisis as a "disgrace". The most recent protests erupted in April after the country's Supreme Court tried to take over legislative powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

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 US leader.

Among those hit with sanctions was Maikel Moreno, a Maduro ally who became president of the 32-judge Supreme Court in February.

A senior US official warned of further action against "bad actors" if there are no changes in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez decried the US sanctions on Twitter as "outrageous and unacceptable".

At least 43 people have died in the last seven weeks in violence related to the anti-government protests.

In February, the USA ordered sanctions against Vice President Tareck El Aissami, accusing him of playing a major role in global drug trafficking.

"We haven't really seen a problem like that, I would say, Mr. President, in decades, in terms of the kind of violence that we're witnessing", Trump said, adding that "we'll work together to do whatever is necessary to help with fixing that".

The White House decided past year to extend the legislation imposing sanctions against Venezuela until 2019.

Another was a ruling a year ago declaring null all acts of the National Assembly issued while it remains in contempt of an earlier ruling requiring the congress to unseat three elected lawmakers over still-unproven allegations of voting fraud.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, whose state of Florida is home to thousands of wealthy Venezuelans who have fled their country, praised the new sanctions. But near-daily anti-government protests were triggered by the ruling and have continued across the country, with more than 40 people killed.

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