White House

U.S. takes action against Venezuela’s top diplomat

The Trump administration slapped new sanctions Friday against Venezuela’s foreign minister in its latest move to increase pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to yield power.

The Treasury Department announced the measures against Jorge Alberto Arreaza and Carol Bealexis Padilla, a judge associated with the March 21 detainment of Roberto Marrero, the chief of staff to Juan Guaidó, who the United States and dozens of other nations have recognized as the interim president of Venezuela.

“Treasury will continue to target corrupt Maduro insiders, including those tasked with conducting diplomacy and carrying out justice on behalf of this illegitimate regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on more than 150 Maduro officials and revoked visas from hundreds of Venezuelan officials. The administration has also taken action against the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and mining company, MINERVIN.

Last month, the Trump administration announced new banking sanctions against the Venezuelan regime in retaliation for the detention of Marrero. His wife, Romy Moreno Molina, told President Donald Trump during a White House visit that Maduro forces stormed their home in the middle of the night and took her husband.

“It was a nightmare,” she said.

Arreaza is the Maduro government’s top diplomat and has traveled around the world defending Maduro and accusing the United States of attempting to orchestrate a coup.

Under the Treasury’s order, Arreaza and Padilla’s assets in the United States will be frozen, and U.S. banks and institutions are barred from doing business with them. However, Treasury offered a caveat stating that sanctions can be lifted if those sanctioned “take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses” committed by the Maduro leadership.

“Arreaza is at the forefront of the former Maduro regime’s attempts within the international community to thwart the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people,” the State Department said in a statement. “Padilla’s designation is a reminder that the ongoing detention of Roberto Marrero and the acts of intimidation against President Guaidó and his supporters by the former Maduro regime will have consequences. We demand his immediate release.”

Franco Ordoñez is a White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau with a focus on immigration and foreign affairs. He previously covered Latin American affairs for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He moved to Washington in 2011 after six years at the Charlotte Observer covering immigration and working on investigative projects for The Charlotte Observer.