Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated eight Venezuelan government officials pursuant to Executive Order 13692. The designated officials, members of Venezuela's Supreme Court of Justice (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia or TSJ), are responsible for a number of judicial rulings in the past year that have usurped the authority of Venezuela's democratically-elected legislature, the National Assembly, including by allowing the Executive Branch to rule through emergency decree, thereby restricting the rights and thwarting the will of the Venezuelan people. The National Assembly has been controlled by a majority of opposition-party members since January 2016.
The Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government's mismanagement and corruption. Members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority, said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country.
The eight officials are the President of Venezuela's TSJ, Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, and the seven principal members of the TSJ's Constitutional Chamber (La Sala Constitucional del TSJ or TSJ-C): Juan Jose Mendoza Jover (Second Vice President of the TSJ and President of the TSJ-C); Arcadio de Jesus Delgado Rosales (Vice President of the TSJ-C); Gladys Maria Gutierrez Alvarado (Magistrate of the TSJ-C and former President of the TSJ); Carmen Auxiliadora Zuleta de Merchan (Magistrate of the TSJ-C); Luis Fernando Damiani Bustillos (Magistrate of the TSJ-C); Lourdes Benicia Suarez Anderson (Magistrate of the TSJ-C); and Calixto Antonio Ortega Rios (Magistrate of the TSJ-C). As a result of today's actions, all of the designated individuals' assets within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
In the past year, the TSJ-C has issued a number of rulings that interfere with or limit the National Assembly's authority. For example, in January 2017, the TSJ-C ruled that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro would give his annual address to the TSJ and not the National Assembly, as it states in the Constitution. In December 2016, the TSJ-C appointed members of the National Electoral Council, a constitutional duty of the National Assembly. In October 2016, the TSJ-C declared that the Venezuelan Executive Branch was exempt from submitting the budget to the National Assembly, as required by the Constitution, and ruled that the budget would instead be submitted to the TSJ-C. In multiple rulings issued between July 2016 and January 2017, the TSJ-C, instead of the National Assembly, has repeatedly renewed an extension of a state of emergency, a function that allows for the temporary restriction of constitutional rights, at the request of the Executive Branch.
Additionally, the TSJ-C has issued rulings that limit the ability of the National Assembly to conduct its constitutional duties. In September 2016, the TSJ-C declared that certain acts of the National Assembly are absolutely null and void. Most recently, in late March 2017, the TSJ-C issued two decisions that drew widespread criticism from the international community, as well as from the Venezuelan people and from within the Venezuelan government. The decisions stripped parliamentary immunity from members of the National Assembly and allowed the TSJ-C to assume the legislative role. Although these decisions were partially reversed following the significant backlash that resulted, the other described TSJ-C decisions remain in effect and show a long-term effort to negate the authority of the legislative branch and subvert the will of the Venezuelan people.
The eight judges designated today were responsible for these decisions. The TSJ-C judges jointly wrote most of the decisions, and Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, in his role as President overseeing the TSJ as a whole, publicly defended them.
Treasury undertook today's action, in consultation with the State Department, pursuant to Executive Order 13692. The U.S. government continues to call on the Venezuelan government to permit the democratically-elected National Assembly to perform its constitutional functions.