The United States has placed sanctions on the son and stepsons of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, adding to the piles of accusations that corruption within the government reached the highest levels.
In the span of a month, the US Treasury Department has placed sanctions on President Maduro's son, Nicolás Ernesto Maduro Guerra, and first lady Cilia Flores' sons, according to agency news releases. As is standard, the sanctions freeze their US assets and prohibit all Americans and US financial institutions from doing any transactions with them.
Maduro's son, often referred to as "Nicolasito, is accused of having designed a strategy to prevent the entry of humanitarian assistance into Venezuela. He is a member of the National Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente - ANC), the pro-Maduro legislature, and is said to be part of Maduro's inner-circle, which "lives in luxury off the proceeds of corruption," according to a June 28 Treasury Department news release.
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The sanctions agains Flores' children -- Walter, Yoswal and Yosser -- stem from their alleged involvement in a scheme that sent overpriced, inedible food packages to Venezuela. Álex Saab, a Colombian businessman, is accused of running the corruption network, which employed shell companies to steal millions of dollars from food import contracts.
The food aid program, known as the Local Committees for Supply and Production (Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción - CLAP), was used by "Maduro and his family members to steal from the Venezuelan people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a July 25 news release.
The latest actions taken by the Treasury Department are part of a wide range of economic sanctions deployed to pressure Maduro into leaving power.
InSight Crime Analysis
By targeting the president's family members and linking them to widespread corruption, the US government is adding to the reams of evidence that Maduro has used the presidency to illicitly enrich his family and close associates.
Accusations against the children and other relatives of Maduro and Flores have piled up over the years. In 2017, Flores' nephews were sentenced to 18 years in prison on US drug trafficking charges. The pair were accused of plotting to ship 800 kilograms of cocaine to the United States.
Sanctions against the president's family members began in September 2018, when first lady Cilia Flores had her assets frozen. Flores' sons are now accused of playing a part in the massive food import scheme.
Maduro Guerra is believed to have been involved in the manipulation of Venezuela's gold trade. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, the former chief of Venezuela’s intelligence services who deserted in April after a failed opposition uprising, told the Washington Post that an assistant of the president's son set up a company to buy gold from illegal miners. The gold was then sold to Venezuela's central bank at inflated rates.