U.S. blacklists four individuals, alleging Venezuela election interference

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks in Caracas, Venezuela June 29, 2020. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday blacklisted four individuals for what it said was their help for the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to prevent free and fair parliamentary elections in Venezuela in December, the Treasury said.

Two of the people, Indira Alfonso and Jose Gutierrez, were appointed earlier this year by the pro-government Supreme Court to oversee the national electoral council, which has called elections for this December.

The Venezuelan opposition and the United States say the council is stacked with Maduro loyalists and cannot oversee a fair vote. The main opposition coalition, led by parliament head Juan Guaido, has vowed to boycott the election.

“The corrupt Maduro regime is attempting to seize control of the National Assembly of Venezuela through a fraudulent election,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Also sanctioned were Reinaldo Munoz, Maduro’s solicitor general, and former Venezuelan state Governor David de Lima, who the Treasury said had orchestrated vote-buying operations to sway opposition lawmakers.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry responded in a statement that the move is an effort to interfere in the upcoming election.

“It has become clear that the sacred value of democracy is not more than empty rhetoric on the part of a government that boasts of being democracy’s biggest defender,” the ministry said.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Angus Berwick and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jonathan Oatis