01:57 - Source: CNN
On GPS: What's Venezuela's way out?
CNN  — 

The United States sanctioned two individuals tied to Nicolas Maduro’s regime, including his foreign minister, on Friday – the latest effort by the Trump administration to force the Venezuelan leader to step down.

The US Treasury Department designated Jorge Arreaza, the minister of foreign affairs, and Carol Bealexis Padilla de Arretureta, a judge who was, according to the State Department, “associated with the March 21 detainment of Interim President Juan Guaido’s Chief of Staff Roberto Marrero.”

“The United States will not stand by and watch as the illegitimate Maduro regime starves the Venezuelan people of their wealth, humanity, and right to democracy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a 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.”

In a statement, the State Department accused Arreaza of being “at the forefront of the former Maduro regime’s attempts within the international community to thwart the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people.”

“Padilla’s designation is a reminder that the ongoing detention of Roberto Marrero and the acts of intimidation against President Guaido and his supporters by the former Maduro regime will have consequences. We demand his immediate release,” the statement said.

Arreaza dismissed the sanction in a message on Twitter, writing, “Some reactions confirm that we walk the right path. It gives us more STRENGTH for the struggle. Yesterday, we denounced the US criminal blockade against Venezuela at the UN. Today, the Trump administration responds with desperation against us. TRUTH hurts!”

The US has imposed numerous rounds of sanctions on individuals and companies tied to Maduro since recognizing Guaido as interim president of Venezuela in late January. Although dozens of other countries have followed suit in that recognition, Maduro has refused to step down and retains the support of the armed forces in Venezuela.

On Thursday, State Department special representative Elliott Abrams expressed optimism that Maduro would capitulate from power and maintained that “all options are on the table.” He also called on European allies who have recognized Guaido to increase pressure on the Maduro regime.

“What we have not seen from Europe is the kind of pressure, other than the endorsement of Guaido, we have not seen the kind of travel restrictions or sanctions that we’ve done in the US, that a number of Latins have done, that I think would actually make a difference,” Abrams said during a brief press conference in Washington, DC. “I’d like to see more of that on the part of the EU.”