The United States officially imposed new sanctions on Venezuela Monday, amid accusations from President Nicolas Maduro that Washington is trying to destabilize his country.
The new sanctions expand the number of Venezuelan government officials barred from entering the United States.
“These restrictions will also affect the immediate family members of a number of those individuals subject to visa restrictions for believed involvement in human rights abuses or for acts of public corruption,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
Psaki continued by stating, “We will not publicly identify these individuals because of U.S. visa confidentiality laws, but we are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States.”
Maduro hit back at the announcement by accusing the U.S. government of hypocrisy.
“They kill black youth in the street with impunity, they persecute and have concentration camps of Central American kids. (In Guantanamo), they have abducted dozens of citizens of the world under no known legal system, submitting them to torture, isolation,” he said during a speech.
He asked, “What human rights are they talking about?”
The new U.S. sanctions are in response to a wave of unrest that hit Venezuela in early 2014. Around 43 people died as anti-government groups took to the streets with weapons ranging from firearms to molotov cocktails and home-made bazookas to demand Maduro step down. According to an analysis of the death toll by independent media collective Venezuelanalysis, around half the casualties were government supporters, state security personnel or ordinary members of the public likely killed by anti-government groups. Venezuelan authorities have arrested opposition figures it claims masterminded the violence including Leopoldo Lopez, while also pressing charges against security personnel accused of misconduct.
However, Psaki described the opposition violence as “peaceful protests.”
“We emphasize the action we are announcing today is specific to individuals and not directed at the Venezuelan nation or its people,” she said.
However, Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez told private broadcaster Venevision that the U.S. and corporate media are trying to mislead the international community about Venezuela.
“All imperialist wars have been precipitated by media campaigns such as this one, giving false information that aims to provide the world with the justification for an intervention,” said Rodriguez.