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EU slaps sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials

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By Euronews  with REUTERS
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro with his wife Cilia Flores
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro with his wife Cilia Flores   -   Copyright  REUTERS

The EU has slapped sanctions on seven government officials in Venezuela as the country’s political and economic situation continues to crumble.

Restrictions including travel bans and asset freezes have been issued due to the lack of “concrete” progress being made in negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition, the European Council said in a statement.

Dubbed a dictator by France and the United States, President Nicolás Maduro has been accused of dragging Venezuela towards authoritarian rule by rigging elections and censoring his political opponents and critics since he came into power in 2013.

The EU follows in the footsteps of Canada and the United States, which issued their own sanctions late last year.

In a statement published on its website, the European Council said the restrictions were not intended to harm the Venezuelan population, adding that they could be reversed if talks resume, elections are held and political prisoners released.

The sanctioned individuals include Antonio Jose Benavides Torres, chief of the Capital District in Caracas; Interior Minister Nestor Riverol; National Intelligence Director Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez; and Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, who heads the supreme court.

Some of them had also been accused of ‘crimes against humanity’ by exiled Venezuelan supreme court justices, who filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in November. They were included in a list of 60 officials who had allegedly assisted in the systematic persecution of political dissent, including murder and imprisonment in some cases.

President Maduro, however, has been excluded from the latest round of sanctions. He remains free to travel in the EU for future talks.