United States announces sanctions against Maduro officials

Humanitarian aid is unloaded from a US cargo plane at Camilo Daza airport in Cucuta Colombia

Waving both the carrot and the stick at Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Washington hit Caracas with fresh sanctions and said it will use the military to send humanitarian aid to the crisis-stricken country.

Speaking in Miami as humanitarian aid remained stalled at the Venezuelan border, Trump decried President Nicolas Maduro as a "Cuban puppet" and warned officials who have helped keep him in power that "the eyes of the entire world are upon you".

When they met again this week, the atmosphere was less tense, even though the February 11 encounter came four days after Abrams said the "time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed".

Maduro has condemned the U.S. recognition of Guaido as a "vile" coup attempt, and has vowed to bog the United States in a bloody, Vietnam-style conflict should Trump attempt an invasion. The city is the staging point for foreign humanitarian aid - much of it from the US government - that is being blocked from entering Venezuela by Maduro's socialist administration.

While the US military has long supported civilian-led humanitarian assistance missions around the world this is the first time they are being used to deploy aid for Venezuela.

The United States last month imposed sanctions on PDVSA, aiming to "prevent further diverting of Venezuela's assets by Maduro".

"We will not make of the honorable Venezuela a Venezuela of beggars", he said in televised comments on Monday.

Earlier this week, Trump and visiting Colombian President Ivan Duque said they would cooperate on the Venezuela issue closely. He said so many had volunteered to perform that it has to be held over two days.

With the new round of sanctions, the White House remains in lockstep with its tough stance against Maduro's government. The moment is now for change in Venezuela.

"We do not have any barter system with Venezuela".

Maduro's government lost legitimacy after he was sworn for a second presidential term on January 10 despite warnings by foreign governments and global organizations not to do so.

As the monthslong political crisis stretched on, Trump delivered a public plea to Venezuela's military to support Guaido's government.

Amid the mounting pressure at home and overseas, Maduro said he won't give up power as a way to defuse the standoff. Maduro has already rejected American aid, denouncing the shipments as "crumbs" and pretext for an invasion.

He also reiterated a refusal to allow humanitarian aid, calling boxes of USA -donated food and pediatric supplies sitting in a warehouse on the border in Colombia mere "crumbs" after the US administration froze billions of dollars in the nation's oil revenue and overseas assets. "We know who they are, and we know where they keep the billions of dollars that they have stolen".

Maduro recalled that Colombia and the United States allegedly planned military intervention in Venezuela, noting that his plan "guarantees the security and peace along the country's border". "Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need".

But Maduro shrugged off the label of "dictator", attributing it to an ideologically driven media campaign by the West to undermine the socialist revolution started by Chavez.

Lawmaker Miguel Pizarro, who is heading up the national assembly's relief efforts, said in a statement that police on Friday raided the seat of Manos por la Vida ("Hands for life") and decommissioned items including "medicine and milk for pregnant mothers and children with HIV/AIDS".

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