UPDATE 2 – US sanctions 4 top Venezuelan officials

ADDS TRUMP REFUSING TO RULE OUT MILITARY ACTION

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. sanctioned four senior Venezuelan officials Tuesday, including first lady and former Attorney General Cilia Adela Flores de Maduro.

Also designated were Executive Vice President Delcy Eloina Rodriguez Gomez, Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Jesus Rodriguez Gomez and Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

The State Department also sanctioned Jose Omar Paredes and Edgar Alberto Sarria Diaz, whom it said are part of a network aimed at supporting Rafael Alfredo Sarria Diaz, who it called a "key front person for sanctioned Venezuelan President of the illegitimate Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello Rondon."

Sarria Diaz and Cabello Rondon were designated May 18.

The United States further sanctioned Panazeate SL, which it said is owned by Sarria Diaz.

"U.S. sanctions need not be permanent; they are intended to change behavior," the State Department said.

The agency added Washington would consider lifting penalties if the designated individuals "take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses and speak out against abuses committed by the government, and combat corruption in Venezuela."

As a result of Tuesday's actions any property owned by the blacklisted individuals within U.S. jurisdiction has been frozen and U.S. individuals are generally prohibited from doing business with them.

U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the new economic penalties during remarks before the UN General Assembly, which he said target Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's "inner circle and close advisors."

"We ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," he said.

He later refused to rule out military action against Venezuela, telling reporters in New York, "I don’t like to talk about military."

"Why should I talk to you about military?" he said, claiming his predecessor, President Barack Obama "used to say exactly what he was gonna do, and then it would be 10 times tougher to do it. I don’t do that.”

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