U.S. Treasury Sanctions Venezuela's Top Diplomat Arreaza

(Bloomberg) -- The Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuela’s foreign minister for allegedly exploiting the U.S. financial system to support what it considers the “illegitimate” regime of Nicolas Maduro.

The U.S. added Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s top diplomat since 2017, to its sanctions designation list, according to a statement released Friday. It also sanctioned Judge Carol Bealexis Padilla de Arretureta, according to the statement.

“Treasury will continue to target corrupt Maduro insiders, including those tasked with conducting diplomacy and carrying out justice on behalf of this illegitimate regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

Arreaza, 45, is a longtime confidant of Maduro and his predecessor, the late President Hugo Chavez. Prior to becoming foreign minister, he headed the ministry of science and technology and the ministry higher education. He is married to Chavez’s daughter, Rosa Virginia.

As Venezuela’s top diplomat, Arreaza has worked to strengthen ties with other U.S. rivals such as Russia, Syria and North Korea in the wake of crippling sanctions. At the United Nations, Arreaza regularly blasts U.S. policies toward Venezuela as a precursor to a military invasion.

The U.S. and about 50 other nations have recognized opposition-led National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful head of state, after Maduro began another six-year term in January following 2018 elections widely regarded as rigged.

The U.S. has levied sanctions on Venezuela’s all-important oil industry and has frozen assets abroad, but Guaidos’s movement has stalled in recent weeks amid rolling blackouts, hyperinflation and the continued staunch support by Venezuela’s security and military apparatus for Maduro.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.