US sanctions 8 Venezuelan Supreme Court judges

A masked anti-government protester shields himself during clashes with security forces, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Maduro's government accuses them of seeking a violent coup and says numerous protesters are no more than "terrorists".

Protesters are demanding elections to kick out the socialist government that they accuse of wrecking the economy and turning Venezuela into a dictatorship.

Venezuela presents a "very, very disgusting problem" for the entire hemisphere, and the ongoing unrest there that's left dozens dead and hundreds injured was "nothing like what we've seen for a long time", Trump said, adding that the USA stood with those "yearning to be free".

Venezuela's Supreme Court has always been filled with government loyalists, some of dubious legal qualifications.

Earlier that month, a bipartisan letter from U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Senator Bob Menendez and 32 other lawmakers called on Trump to sanction Venezuelan officials who have allegedly profited from the country's chronic food shortages.

In Washington, the Trump administration is imposing sanctions on members of Venezuela's Supreme Court following a series of rulings that the USA says has usurped power from the nation's opposition-controlled Congress and sparked the unrest.

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced Thursday it is freezing the assets of eight Venezuelan government officials on the Supreme Court in an effort to support the Venezuelan people "in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance".

A ruling issued in late March that stripped Venezuela's Congress of its last powers was later reversed amid a storm of criticism, but the anti-government protests have continued.

The new sanctions package was aimed at stepping up pressure on the leftist government of Venezuela n President Nicolas Maduro and his loyalists amid growing concern over a crackdown on street protests and his efforts to consolidate his rule over the South American oil-producing country. "Because right now what's happening is really a disgrace to humanity", Trump said after meeting at the White House with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. In February, the United States blacklisted Venezuela n Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged links to drug trafficking. It said the National Assembly was in contempt. It was also hours after Venezuelan authorities prevented a known politician from traveling to NY for a meeting at the United Nations to discuss the crisis. The protests typically end with state security forces launching tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, some of whom fire back with rocks and gasoline bombs. The Organization of Americas States will hold an emergency ministerial meeting on May 31 to address the crisis.

More than 2,000 people have been detained and several hundred put through military tribunals, according to Foro Penal, a nonprofit lawyers' cooperative defending many of those charged.

Maduro is pushing to resolve the crisis by convening a special assembly to rewrite the nation's constitution.

He added: "And we will do whatever is necessary and we will work together to do whatever is necessary to help with fixing that". At least 43 people have died during weeks of unrest.

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