By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Thousands of police, intelligence service, tax, immigration, interior and foreign-service officials will not be able to indulge in that favorite Venezuelan pastime: visiting DisneyWorld come Christmas time.
The U.S., which has already sanctioned 46 former and current officials with the Nicolas Maduro administration, announced a suspension of visas and travel ban for officials of six government agencies and ministries, including the Foreign Ministry and their families Sunday night. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who was at the United Nations in New York, denounced the measure Monday morning in a speech there.
The latest U.S. sanctions come after Canada on Friday sanctioned 40 Venezuelan officials, including Nicolas Maduro himself, Vice President Tareck El Aissami, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol. Those four officials are already Specially Designated Nationals by the US Treasury.MORE THAN 18,000 COPS
One of the agencies affected, the CICPC criminal investigations police, has more than 15,000 employees, according to the Venezuelan Social Security Institute. Venezuela’s version of the FBI, CICPC coordinates investigation of criminal cases with the Attorney General’s Office.
In total, officials from six agencies and ministries were affected by a widespread ban on travelling to the U.S., the most comprehensive set of sanctions since the Barack Obama administration started taking measures against Venezuelan officials in 2014, after that year’s violent repression left 43 demonstrators dead.
SEBIN has a much smaller number of employees, over 3,400, but it is, by far, more influential. The National Bolivarian Intelligence Service runs domestic operations against the political opposition, including high-profile arrests, intimidation, spying and the running of two infamous prisons in Caracas alone: El Helicoide at its namesake, Western Caracas headquarters, where US citizen Joshua Holt is imprisoned on weapons charges, and Las Tumbas (The Tombs), a series of dungeons in a basement four stories underground near Plaza Venezuela.
The opposition however welcomed the sanction, and noted that they were targeted at officials who were instrumental in keeping the regime afloat, not aimed at the populace at large.
“Trump’s measure with regards to Venezuela? We support it. And we call on other nations to implement actions such as these which have as its main purpose to exert pressure on dictatorial regimes in order to reestablish democracy in certain nations,” opposition lawmaker Lester Toledo stated in a press release published Monday morning.
“A regime that perpetrates crimes against mankind, which violates Human Rights, which keeps behind bars hundreds of political prisoners, that submits its people to hunger and death by denying them food or medicines, which kidnaps the right to vote and tramples the democratic principle of checks and balances cannot go unpunished,” Toledo added. “And measures such as this one put the brakes on abuses that have been carried out against all Venezuelans.”