As President Donald Trump networked with foreign leaders to build pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that could force him to leave office, the U.S. also upped its individual efforts, slapping sanctions against Maduro’s son, Nicolas, also know as “Nicolasito.”
“Maduro relies on his son Nicolasito and others close to his authoritarian regime to maintain a stranglehold on the economy and suppress the people of Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, Reuters reported Friday.
The sanctions mean any assets held by Maduro’s son in the U.S. are frozen and that the international banking system is no longer easy for him to navigate.
“Treasury will continue to target complicit relatives of illegitimate regime insiders profiting off of Maduro’s corruption,” Mnuchin said.
Venezuela called the sanctions “illegal” and said they were enacted with the “dark aim” of directly attacking Maduro’s family.
The Maduro government “rejects the continued attacks by the Trump administration that seek to undermine, unsuccessfully, the spirit and will of a people determined to take the reins of their own destiny,” the Venezuelan statement said, according to Reuters.
The U.S. has been trying to gingerly push Maduro out of office to replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who in January declared himself interim president.
Although some nations have joined in recognizing Guaido by declaring Maduro an illegitimate leader of Venezuela, others such as Russia and China have not.
Further, the Venezuelan military has remained loyal to Maduro.
Trump, who has been attending the G-20 summit in Japan, talked about the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reported.
According to The Hill, Trump was also asked about The Post’s report that momentum to oust Maduro had dissipated, Trump replied, “No, not at all. Things take time.”
“But we’re behind a certain group of people; you know who the people are. We’re behind the people of Venezuela,” Trump said.
“That’s who we’re really behind, more than anything else. And we’ve been helping them a lot. We’ve been bringing a lot of food and a lot of medical and a lot of other things to Venezuela.”
The media was also briefed by what Reuters and NPR called a “senior administration official” whose identity was not to be disclosed.
“Venezuela is going to come up at most of the conversations the president has out there,” the official said.
“That’s because the president has not lost focus on Venezuela.
“This is still a major priority for this president and this is something that the president wants to see resolved in the short term because the people of Venezuela are suffering every day.”
The official indicated more sanctions and pressure will be forthcoming.
“We will continue to target corruption and squeeze the Maduro regime until it no longer has funds with which to prop itself up,” the official said.
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