US Treasury slaps sanctions on 8 Venezuela court justices

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The Treasury Department has announced that it has sanctioned eight top Venezuelan government officials - all members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice.

The action marked second time the Trump administration has stripped high-level Venezuelan officials of their US assets and banned Americans from any business dealings with them.

The new sanctions package was aimed at stepping up pressure on the leftist government of Venezuela n President Nicolas Maduro and his loyalists amid growing concern over a crackdown on street protests and his efforts to consolidate his rule over the South American oil-producing country.

More than 40 people have been killed in nearly two months of unrest in Venezuela.

Social media has buzzed for weeks with videos of Venezuelan emigres in countries ranging from Australia to the United States shouting insults at public officials and in some cases family members in public places.

The United States convened a meeting on Wednesday of the UN Security Council.

"When you look at the oil reserves that they have, when you look at the potential wealth that Venezuela has, you sort of have to wonder, why is that happening? How is that possible?"

But Jose Colina, who founded and directs the Organization of Venezuelans in Exile, said the public humiliations are a form of "justice".

Protesters are demanding elections to kick out the socialist government that they accuse of wrecking the economy and turning Venezuela into a dictatorship.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he hoped the passport revocation was not a "reprisal" linked to his scheduled meeting with Capriles on Friday.

The announcement came as President Donald Trump welcomed Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos to the White House, where among other things the two discussed Venezuela's situation.

They pledged to work together to help the Venezuelan people. "America stands with all of the people in our great hemisphere yearning to breathe free".

President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of inciting violence by calling people on to the streets.

Almost two months of political unrest were set off by the attempt by Maduro's socialist government to nullify the opposition-controlled congress in late March.

Anti-government protesters stand around burning tires serving as a road barricade, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

The Venezuelan leader declared, "We are the Jews of the 21st century".

Guerrero, the latest casualty, was taken to a hospital Tuesday after being shot and died Wednesday morning after undergoing surgery, authorities said.

The de facto annulment of the congress drew widespread global condemnation, and the decision was later partially reversed. Maduro's opposition was planning a larger Saturday protest nationwide to demand elections. In February, the United States designated Maduro's Vice-President, Tareck El Aissami, as a major global drug trafficker.