Trump administration targets Venezuelan President Maduro's son 'Nicolasito' with sanctions

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's son (pictured) has been involved in propaganda and censorship, according to the US Treasury Department.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's son (pictured) has been involved in propaganda and censorship, according to the US Treasury Department.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Trump administration turned up the pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday (June 28) by targeting his son Nicolas "Nicolasito" Maduro with sanctions, the US Treasury Department said.

The new sanctions are the latest push in six months of efforts to oust Mr Maduro, whose 2018 re-election has been deemed illegitimate by the United States and most Western nations.

Mr Maduro's son has been involved in propaganda and censorship, has profited from Venezuelan mines, and helped pressure the military to keep humanitarian aid out of the country, the Treasury Department said.

"Maduro relies on his son Nicolasito and others close to his authoritarian regime to maintain a stranglehold on the economy and suppress the people of Venezuela," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"Treasury will continue to target complicit relatives of illegitimate regime insiders profiting off of Maduro's corruption," said Mr Mnuchin, who is in Osaka, Japan, with President Donald Trump for a G-20 summit.

The Venezuelan government called the new measures "illegal"and said they had the "dark aim" of trying to directly attack Mr Maduro's family after the Trump administration's previous attempts to overthrow the socialist leader had failed.

The government "rejects the continued attacks by the Trump administration that seek to undermine, unsuccessfully, the spirit and will of a people determined to take the reins of their own destiny," it said in a statement.

 
 

Washington has thrown its support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, who invoked the country's constitution in January to declare himself interim president.

Mr Maduro has retained the backing of the country's military and other institutions, and calls Mr Guaido a Washington puppet.

The new sanctions come as Mr Trump holds a series of meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the G-20.

Mr Trump raised the subject of Venezuela with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs Mr Maduro, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a Mr Guaido supporter, on the first day of the summit.

Asked whether momentum had been lost in efforts to oust Maduro, Mr Trump told reporters: "No, not at all. Things take time."

VENEZUELA STILL IN TRUMP'S FOCUS

On the second day of the G-20, Mr Trump is scheduled to speak with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both of whom support Mr Maduro.

"Venezuela is going to come up at most of the conversations the president has out there. That's because the president has not lost focus on Venezuela," a senior US administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 
 

More information will be released in coming weeks about the younger Maduro's "direct role in corruption," the official said, declining to give further details.

Mr Maduro appointed his son the head of the Corps of Inspectors of the Presidency and he is also a member of Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly, a pro-Maduro legislative superbody created by the government in 2017 to override the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The US does not regard the National Constituent Assembly as legitimate and has previously imposed sanctions on other people involved in it.

The Treasury designation means that any assets held by the younger Maduro in the US will be frozen - and will make it difficult for him to move money through the international banking system.

The senior administration official declined comment on whether the younger Maduro has assets in the US.

The Trump administration is continuing to work on sanctions for other individuals connected to Mr Maduro, including magistrates on Venezuela's supreme court who have not yet been designated, the official said.

"We will continue to target corruption and squeeze the Maduro regime until it no longer has funds with which to prop itself up," the official said.