The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on Friday against six Venezuelan government officials loyal to dictator Nicolas Maduro for their role in blocking humanitarian aid shipments in February.
“In order to prevent much-needed aid from reaching the suffering people of Venezuela, Maduro closed Venezuela’s border and deployed official, and unofficial, military and security forces to Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil where the humanitarian aid convoys were set to cross,” the Treasury Department explained.
Friday’s sanctions target “six security officials who control many of the groups that prevented humanitarian aid from entering Venezuela, thereby exacerbating the humanitarian crisis that has left millions of Venezuelans starving and without access to medical care under the Maduro regime.”
One of these groups is the Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales (FAES), a special police unit originally created for counterterrorism operations but now employed as a goon squad to crack down on Maduro’s political opponents. Personal loyalty to Maduro has been cultivated among FAES members, who are often deployed as political enforcers against Venezuelan soldiers who defy the dictator.
The other sanctioned individuals are linked to regional military commands and the Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB), the Venezuelan national guard.
The Treasury Department noted that after blocking humanitarian aid convoys attempting to enter Venezuela from Colombia, Maduro “severed diplomatic ties with Colombia.” Subsequent clashes between Venezuelan and Colombian border forces killed at least five people and wounded 285 more.
The sanctions will block access by the six listed individuals to all of their property and interests in the United States or controlled by U.S. entities.
“Former President Nicolas Maduro’s border blockades of trucks and ships loaded with humanitarian aid are the latest example of his illegitimate regime weaponizing the delivery of food and critically needed supplies in order to control vulnerable Venezuelans,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“We are sanctioning members of Maduro’s security forces in response to the reprehensible violence, tragic deaths, and unconscionable torching of food and medicine destined for sick and starving Venezuelans,” he said.
Mnuchin reiterated the strong support of the United States for Venezuela’s Interim President Juan Guaido and warned Maduro loyalists they will continue to face Treasury action for “prolonging the suffering of the victims of this man-made humanitarian crisis.”
On Friday, the Trump administration also announced dozens of new visa restrictions on officials loyal to Maduro, as well as their family members.