US slaps new sanctions on Venezuela regime as Russia ups support

WASHINGTON, March 3 (NNN-AGENCIES) – The United States and Russia clashed 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.

“We are sanctioning members of Maduro’s security forces in response to the reprehensible violence, tragic deaths and unconscionable torching of food and medicine destined for sick and starving Venezuelans,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

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.

Guaido has said 300,000 people could die without an influx of aid into
Venezuela.

The United Nations says 2.7 million Venezuelans have fled since 2015 as the
socialist economy crumbles, with basic supplies out of reach to the masses.

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.

“This has acquired special significance now that Venezuela is facing a
frontal attack and unabashed interference in its domestic affairs,” he said.

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.” — NNN-AGENCIES