United States slaps new sanctions on Venezuela regime as Russia ups support

Vastavam web: The United States and Russia clashed Friday over how to assist crisis-wracked Venezuela, with Moscow pledging new relief channeled through President Nicolas Maduro and Washington slapping sanctions over the blocking of US aid it tried to push through the border. A day after Russia and China vetoed a US and European resolution at the UN Security Council that called for unimpeded aid deliveries, Washington said it was targeting six Venezuelan military officers for stopping last weekend’s US-led convoy.

Four people were killed in the melee as Maduro’s forces prevented the 178 metric tonnes of rice, beans and other food from crossing into the country from Colombia. The leftist strongman says the aid is a pretext for a US-led invasion. The six include Major General Richard Jesus Lopez Vargas, the commander of the Venezuelan National Guard. The sanctions freeze any assets in the United States and penalize US financial dealings with the officials.

The United States also revoked the visas of 49 Venezuelan officials and their family members, the State Department said. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom Washington has recognized as interim president, had hoped to triumph in bringing in the stockpiles of food, which the United States coordinated with Colombia and Brazil.

More than 50 countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president — but Maduro enjoys strong support from Russia, which is eager to challenge US interventionism, as well as China, which is concerned over the fate of billions of dollars Beijing has lent to Caracas. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, receiving Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow, said Russia was stepping up shipments of wheat and was considering sending more medical supplies after shipping 7.5 tonnes. “We are very closely cooperating and coordinating all our steps in the international arena,” Lavrov said.

“Obviously we are in favor of giving humanitarian assistance to Venezuela; we are not in favor of giving it to this corrupt regime,” Abrams told reporters in Washington. Lavrov voiced hope that international pressure would “cool hotheads in Washington” who he said are seeking military intervention in Venezuela. He alleged that the United States was planning to buy small arms, mortar launchers and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from an “Eastern European country” and station them “close to Venezuela.”

President Donald Trump has not ruled out military intervention in Venezuela, although even close US allies have said they would not support the use of force. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has worked closely with Trump to seek Maduro’s ouster, appeared this week to suggest a violent climax as he posted on Twitter two pictures of Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi — one relaxed and smiling while in power, the other bloodied as he was lynched in an uprising.