US sanctions Venezuelan officials over trial of American oil executives

The US has announced sanctions against a Venezuelan judge and a prosecutor involved in the trial of six executives of US refiner Citgo last month.

The Treasury Department said in a statement on Wednesday that it had designated Lorena Carolina Cornielles Ruiz, a judge in the Venezuelan Supreme Court who presided over the trial, and a prosecutor at the Public Ministry of Venezuela, reports Xinhua news agency.

In the statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asserted that “the unjust detention and sentencing of these six US persons further demonstrates how corruption and abuse of power are deeply embedded in Venezuela’s institutions”.

All property and interests of the property of targeted individuals in the US have been blocked, and American civilians are generally prohibited from transactions with them, according to the statement.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court in November convicted six US persons of corruption and sentenced them to prison.

The six oil executives of the US-based refining company Citgo, known as the “CITGO 6”, were arrested in Venezuela on charges of corruption on November 21, 2017.

Five of them were sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison while one of them received a 13-year sentence.

Citgo is owned by Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and the latter was blacklisted by Washington in 2019.

The US has been pursuing a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the Nicolas Maduro government to support opposition leader Juan Guaido.