U.S. issues fresh Venezuela-related sanctions over alleged fraudulent elections

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two people and a company it says played a role in fraudulent elections in Venezuela, keeping up pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro even as U.S. President Donald Trump’s term nears a close.

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The U.S. Treasury Department said it blacklisted Venezuelan biometric technology company Ex-Cle Soluciones Biometricas C.A., which it said provided goods and services used by the Maduro government to hold parliamentary elections earlier this month.

The United States, the European Union and more than a dozen Latin American countries said last week they would not recognize the results of a parliamentary election in Venezuela on Dec. 6, which saw allies of Maduro win a majority.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime’s efforts to steal elections in Venezuela show its disregard for the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement on Friday.

“The United States remains committed to targeting the Maduro regime and those who support its aim to deny the Venezuelan people their right to free and fair elections,” he added.

Also targeted were two individuals the Treasury said acted for or on behalf of Ex-Cle Soluciones Biometricas C.A., targeting dual Argentine and Italian national Guillermo Carlos San Agustin and Venezuelan Marcos Javier Machado Requena.

Maduro, who has accused the United States of trying to overthrow him to gain control over Venezuela’s oil resources, lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in response to the announcement.

“The disgraceful Mike Pompeo today put out some stupid sanctions, like the good imbecile that he is .... against the company and businessmen that manufactured machines so that the Venezuelan people could vote,” Maduro said in a televised broadcast.

The move freezes any U.S. assets of the company and people and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

The Trump administration has waged a campaign of sanctions and diplomatic measures in an effort to oust Maduro, whose 2018 re-election was considered a sham by most Western countries.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Franklin Paul and Philippa Fletcher