The US Treasury has announced that it had sanctioned 10 Venezuelans, including a number of top government officials, in the latest step by the Trump administration to pressure Caracas over what it calls an "erosion of democracy" in the oil-rich country.
"These individuals are associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
The new sanctions target current and former cabinet members including newly appointed Culture Minister Ernesto Emilio Villegas Poljak and Minister of the Office of the Presidency Jorge Elieser Marquez Monsalve, as well as Freddy Alirio Bernal Rosales, an agriculture minister in charge of the government-run food distribution program.
Diaz signed a decree requiring governors to take an oath of office before the Constituent Assembly, a newly created body that the US considers illegitimate.
Poljak has played a role in curtailing press freedom and using state control of the media to restrict the democratic process, the Treasury Department said.
Ruzza announced the relocation of polling stations just four days before the election, while Hernandez was also involved in the changes to polling station locations, the statement said.
The designation comes in the wake of state elections in Venezuela on October 15 that the United States said were marked by numerous irregularities. The Treasury statement said the ruling party likely won a majority of governorships through electoral fraud.
"Despite calls for an independent audit of the election results, the Venezuelan government proceeded to swear in the winning candidates through an oath of office before the illegitimate Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Constituyente or AC), further illustrating the authoritarian nature of the Maduro regime," the statement said.
Under the new sanctions, the assets of the ten individuals in US jurisdictions will be frozen, and US persons are prohibited from dealings with them.
Most recently, media reports suggested that EU envoys had approved arms embargo and sanctions on Venezuela, echoing Washington's move.
Venezuela plunged into turbulence in March, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court decided to restrict the power of the legislature. The decision was reversed amid a backlash, but supporters of the Parliament, who strive for the dismissal of the court members, took to the streets, marking the start of deadly protests, which have so far claimed the lives of over 120 people.