Venezuelan president bolsters sanctions against Maduro’s cronies, allies

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday said it had slapped sanctions on 11 people, including Maduro’s closest allies, in a broad retaliation for the Venezuelan government’s decision to remove Venezuela’s $2.6 billion dollar bond guarantee.

U.S., Treasury Department spokeswoman Amy Ritchie said the U.N. envoy to Venezuela, Eduardo Paez, was among those sanctioned.

The U,S.

sanctions were the largest such measures ever imposed against the Venezuelan Government, the Department of the Treasury said in a statement Friday.

Paez, the country’s U.NA President, was also targeted.

The announcement by the Treasury Department followed weeks of escalating diplomatic and economic pressure against the socialist government.

Maduro, who has been in power for more than a year, has been accused of waging a brutal campaign against his own people, in an attempt to wrest control of the oil-rich nation from its own political elite.

Venezuela has been suffering from food shortages and spiraling inflation for years.

The country has also been hit hard by a series of natural disasters, including the death of hundreds of people during a deadly floods in 2015 and the destruction of crops and homes during last year’s historic drought.

The United States is also trying to pressure Maduro to address the countrys economic woes, and in May, U.K.-based business tycoon Sir Richard Branson and former British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Venezuela.

Polls show a strong majority of Venezuelans want Maduro to stay in power.

In recent weeks, Maduro’s government has also begun to use the U-turn on the bond issue to try to quell unrest.

Maduro said in May that the bond guarantee was part of a long-standing U.s. policy to help the country recover from the crisis.

But he has been under pressure to do so from a series the U., as well as its European allies, have been pressuring him over.