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US Sanctions Members of Venezuela's Supreme Court for Power Grab

Under a 2015 executive order, any dealings with the eight Venezuela high court members are blocked.
Image: Venezuelan Crisis
Opposition supporters clash with riot security forces while rallying against President Maduro on May 10.Marco Bello / Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court of Justice because they "usurped" the authority of the Latin American country's legislature.

The department announced in a news release Thursday that it has designated eight of the court's judges as government officials under a 2015 executive order signed by then President Barack Obama. That designation means that as of Thursday, the eight magistrates' assets in the U.S are frozen and people in the U.S. are prohibited from doing business or transacting with them.

The court members affected are Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, the Supreme Court of Justice's president and the court's seven principal members of its constitutional chamber: Juan Jose Mendoza Jover, who is second vice president of the court and president of the constitutional chamber; Arcadio de Jesus Delgado Rosales, vice president of the constitutional chamber; Carmen Auxiliadora Zuleta de Merchan; Luis Fernando Damiani Bustillos; Lourdes Benicia Suarez Anderson and Calixto Antonio Ortega Rios.

The announcement came as President Donald Trump welcomed Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos to the White House, where among other things the two discussed Venezuela's situation.

Related: Trump Welcomes Colombia's President to the White House

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro took control of the country's National Assembly in March with the help of a ruling by the nation's Supreme Court that nullified the legislative branch.

The country has been in economic chaos for months. Protests against the Maduro government have escalated and there have been calls for Maduro to step down. Maduro has responded by sending armed forces to crack down on protesters.

Related: Venezuela's Escalating Violence Seen in Killing of Carolina Herrera's Nephew

Venezuela, once rich with oil revenue, is running out of money while residents are scrounging for food and basic necessities and crime is skyrocketing.

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