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    US Sanctions Venezuelan Officials, Warns of Economic Penalties - Treasury Dept.

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    The United States sanctioned 13 current Venezuelan government and military officials, the US Department of the Treasury announced on Wednesday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Some of the officials are connected to President Nicolas Maduro’s National Constituent Assembly, the body that will rewrite the country’s constitution, while others were associated with government agencies and the military.

    In a press release, the Treasury Department said the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four senior Venezuelan government officials who are "actively pursuing the Constituent Assembly elections or otherwise undermining democracy or human rights" in the country.

    The officials include Tibisay Lucena Ramirez, president of both the National Electoral Council and the National Board of Elections; Elias Jose Jaua Milano, head of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly; Ombudsman and President of the Republican Moral Council, Tarek William Saab Halabi; and Maria Iris Varela Rangel, a member of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly.

    Treasury said five other former and current military officials were involved in "government agencies responsible for violence and repression."

    Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol Torres was sanctioned. He was previously the Commander General of the Bolivarian National Guard and director of the country’s anti-narcotics body.

    The other current officials sanctioned were National Director of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Police, Carlos Alfredo Perez Ampueda; Bolivarian National Guard Commander General Sergio Jose Rivero Marcano, formerly the National Armed Forces strategic defense commander; and Bolivarian Army Commander General Jesus Rafael Suarez Chourio.

    Suarez was at one time the head of the presidential Protection and Security Unit.

    A former military official, Franklin Horacio Garcia Duque, was sanctioned. He was once the national Bolivarian National Police director and a National Armed Forces strategic defense commander.

    Despite media reports that the sanctions would include Venezuela’s state-run oil and gas company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the firm was not designated.

    OFAC instead designated PDVSA’s Vice President of Finance Simon Alejandro Zerpa Delgado, and his predecessor, Carlos Erik Malpica Flores.

    Delgado is also President of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Development Bank (BANDES) and previously served in a number of ministerial positions.

    Two officials sanctioned were associated with the National Center for Foreign Commerce (CENCOEX): its president, Rocco Albisinni Serrano, and former president Alejandro Antonio Fleming Cabrera. Cabrera is currently Vice Minister for Europe of Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    The Treasury Department said PDVSA and CENCOEX were heavily associated with government corruption.

    The sanctions freeze any of the individuals' assets that are subject to US jurisdiction and generally prohibit US persons from doing business with them.

    A senior administration official told reporters on a press call that anyone who decides to join the assembly could be subject to US sanctions.

    Furthermore, they said the United States is prepared to impose "strong and swift economic measures" if the plan goes ahead.

    When asked if economic measures could target Venezuela’s oil industry, a senior administration official said the White House was leaving all options on the table.

    "We’re not going to comment on specifics of what we may choose to do or not do. We’re not going to get ahead of the president," the official added.

    Elections to Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly are scheduled to be held on Sunday.

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    officials, sanctions, Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela
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