The US Imposes Sanctions on Venezuela's Supreme Court Judges

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Thursday authorities confiscated his passport and prevented him from traveling to NY to meet with United Nations officials about his country's deadly political crisis.

The court members affected are Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, the Supreme Court of Justice's president and the court's seven principal members of its constitutional chamber: Juan Jose Mendoza Jover, who is second vice president of the court and president of the constitutional chamber; Arcadio de Jesus Delgado Rosales, vice president of the constitutional chamber; Carmen Auxiliadora Zuleta de Merchan; Luis Fernando Damiani Bustillos; Lourdes Benicia Suarez Anderson and Calixto Antonio Ortega Rios.

Venezuela 's latest wave of anti-government unrest, which has left at least 45 people dead in the last six weeks, began with the Supreme Court, packed with Maduro supporters, assuming the authorities of the opposition-led Congress in late March.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has always been filled with government loyalists.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump called the situation in Venezuela a "disgrace to humanity", and said the deadly political crisis is possibly the worst of its kind in "decades".

Despite its vast oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies.

As it was live-twitted by Delcy Rodriguez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The sanctions punished the justices by freezing their assets held in US jurisdictions.

Venezuela presents a "very, very terrible problem" for the entire hemisphere, and the ongoing unrest there that's left dozens dead and hundreds injured was "nothing like what we've seen for a long time", Trump said, adding that the USA stood with those "yearning to be free".

The sanctions package, which could be announced as early as Thursday, is expected to designate those unnamed officials for punitive measures to be enforced by the US Treasury Department, the sources told Reuters. "By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country". 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.

Moreno, while not directly involved in those decisions, has defended them and from the bench also upheld a almost 14-year sentence against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a day after Trump called for his release at a White House meeting with his wife.

With the latest sanctions, the USA government said the court members were being targeted because they had "usurped the authority of Venezuela's democratically elected legislature".

The new sanctions come as Maduro is facing increasing worldwide pressure to hold elections.

It comes as the country has been plunged into chaos with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest President Nicolas Maduro's government, which has responded with a heavy show of force. According to a non-governmental organization, more than 945 protests took place by May 9.

  • Zachary Reyes