The Obama Administration announced today that seven individual Venezuelan officials have been sanctioned by the American government for violating human rights, while also calling on the country to release all of its political prisoners.
The announcement also warned that other Venezuelan officials, both past and present, could receive similar sanctions.
"We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents," reads a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. "Venezuela's problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent. We have consistently called on the Venezuelan government to release those it has unjustly jailed as well as to improve the climate of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. These are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms. The Venezuelan government should release all political prisoners, including dozens of students, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Mayors Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma."
The sanction specifically target these seven individuals:
- Antonio José Benavides Torres: Commander of the Strategic Region for the Integral Defense (REDI) of the Central Region of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and former Director of Operations for Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). The administration claims that the GNB is responsible for using force against peaceful protestors and journalists.
- Gustavo Enrique González López: Director General of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and President of Venezuela's Strategic Center of Security and Protection of the Homeland (CESPPA). López is responsible for spying on opposition leaders and using force against peaceful protestors.
- Justo José Noguera Pietri: President of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (CVG), a state-owned entity, and former General Commander of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). Like Torres, Pietri is responsible for atrocities committed by the GNB.
- Katherine Nayarith Haringhton Padron: national level prosecutor of the 20th District Office of Venezuela's Public Ministry. Padron is responsible for charging and imprisoning opposition leaders using false evidence.
- Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta: Director of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Police. Urdaneta is responsible for allowing the National Police to use deadly force against peaceful protestors and journalists.
- Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez : Chief of the 31st Armored Brigade of Caracas of Venezuela's Bolivarian Army and former Director General of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Martinez is responsible for the death of two protestors killed by members of SEBIN.
- Miguel Alcides Vivas Landino: Inspector General of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and former Commander of the Strategic Region for the Integral Defense (REDI) of the Andes Region of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Armed Forces. Landino is also responsible for use of force against peaceful protestors.
"We've seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela," continued the White House. "These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan government to deal with the grave situation it faces."
According to Reuters, Venezuelan officials say they will react to the new sanctions "soon."