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

The Trump administration will take further action against "bad actors" in Venezuela if there are no changes in the country, a senior USA government official said on Thursday.

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 Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government's mismanagement and corruption", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Trump administration is set to impose new sanctions on members of the Venezuelan Supreme Court for stripping the opposition-led congress of all power earlier this year.

All of those targeted will have USA assets frozen and be denied travel to the United States, while American citizens will be barred from doing b us iness with them, officials said.

Another sanctioned magistrate, Calixto Ortega, is a long-time diplomat who was sent by Maduro in 2014 to Aruba to negotiate the release of a retired army general who had been arrested by the Netherlands, which runs the Caribbean island's foreign affairs, on a US drug warrant.

Anti-government protesters stand around burning tires serving as a road barricade, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Senator Ted Cruz was among the first USA lawmakers to react to news of the sanctions.

An anti-government protester wearing a Venezuelan flag picks up a tear gas canister fired by security forces trying to disperse an opposition demonstration in Caracas on Thursday.

Opposition activists clash with riot police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, on May 10, 2017.

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Moreno, while not directly involved in those decisions, has defended them and from the bench also upheld a almost 14-year sentence against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a day after Trump called for his release at a White House meeting with his wife.

There was no immediate reaction from the Maduro government, but in the past it has disputed that the country's justice system is politicized.

Among those targeted is Maikel Moreno, the president of the pro-government Supreme Court, which issued a ruling in late March.

The new sanctions come as Maduro is facing increasing worldwide pressure to hold elections.

More than 2,000 people have been detained and several hundred put through military tribunals, according to Foro Penal, a nonprofit lawyers' cooperative defending many of those charged.

In the western city of Maracaibo, a 25-year-old was killed when he was crushed by a truck during a protest, the chief prosecutor's office said. The Organization of Americas States will hold an emergency ministerial meeting on May 31 to address the crisis.

US President Donald Trump has called the situation in Venezuela "a mess" and his aides have threatened tougher measures against Caracas.

She said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's closed-door meeting that Venezuela is "on the verge of humanitarian crisis", with medicine unavailable, hospitals lacking supplies and people facing difficulty finding food.

Venezuela 's latest wave of anti-government unrest, which has left at least 45 people dead in the last six weeks, began with the Supreme Court, packed with Maduro supporters, assuming the authorities of the opposition-led Congress in late March.

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