President Barack Obama issued an executive order Monday which declared Venezuela a national security threat in response to recent human rights violations in the country.
As a part of the executive order, the President has also imposed sanctions against seven top Venezuelan officials.
The sanctions do not affect the Venezuelan people or trade relations with the country. Instead it focuses on government officials whom the United States accuses of violating human rights.
“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Officials included in the sanctions are the directors of the Venezuela’s intelligence and security services and a national prosecutor.
In a statement on Monday, the White House called on the Venezuelan government to release all political prisoners, which includes the leaders of opposition parties and “dozens of students.”
“We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents,” the White House said in a statement. “Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.”
In addition to the White House’s concerns over human rights and the political crackdown in Venezuela, the arrest of Americans in the country, including an American pilot accused of espionage has created further tensions. This has included banning George W. Bush from the country and naming him and other officials from his administration as terrorists.
For the story on the detained American pilot, check out the video below.
[MSNBC] [Al Jazeera English]