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US sanctions powerful Venezuelan official on eve of presidential election

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, center left, and his wife Cilia Flores, center right, on the Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 31, 2017. (Manu Quintero/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Trump administration announced sanctions Friday on a powerful Venezuelan official and his family on the eve of the troubled South American country’s presidential election.

Diosdado Cabello, head of the ruling Socialist Party, and his wife and brother were blacklisted by the Treasury Department. It accused them of illegally enriching themselves through drug trafficking, money laundering and embezzlement of state funds.

Cabello or his representatives own 14 properties and three firms in New York and Florida that authorities can seize as part of the sanctions, the Treasury Department said.

In addition, American individuals and companies may not do business with the Cabellos, the latest of several Venezuelan officials who have been punished by Treasury.

Venezuela is collapsing under the weight of multiple political and economic crises. It is holding a presidential election Sunday that most outside observers consider a sham.

President Nicolas Maduro is running virtually unopposed since he jailed or disqualified the most popular opposition figures.

“The Venezuelan people suffer under corrupt politicians who tighten their grip on power while lining their own pockets,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

“This administration is committed to holding those accountable who violate the trust of the Venezuelan people, and we will continue to block attempts to abuse the U.S. financial system,” he added.

Relations between leftist Venezuela, once an oil-rich ally, and the United States have been strained for years. They have worsened since President Donald Trump took office last year.


© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.