8 judges on Venezuela's Supreme Court hit with US sanctions

The Treasury Department has announced that it has sanctioned eight top Venezuelan government officials - all members of the country's Supreme Court of Justice.

"By imposing these targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuela n people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country", he said.

In issuing its sanctions ruling, the U.S. Treasury Department cited several court rulings since the opposition gained control of congress.

Venezuela presents a "very, very terrible 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".

Earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury also imposed new sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, after accusing him of being involved in drug trafficking. One was the approval of Maduro's budget and his appointment of two government sympathizers to the National Electoral Council, decisions that are supposed to require National Assembly approval.

The chaotic nationwide protests this year began after the Supreme Court ruled to limit the power of the National Assembly and later reversed their decision due to national and global pressure.

Venezuelan opposition activists clash with the riot police during a rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 18, 2017. 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 late Venezuelan leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez, was quick to fill the Supreme Court with his supporters more than a decade ago.

His statement came after a massive candle light vigil in Caracas that was held in honor of the Venezuelans who have died during the ongoing protests.

Moreno, while not directly involved in those decisions, has defended them and from the bench also upheld a almost 14-year sentence against opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a day after Trump called for his release at a White House meeting with his wife.

The agency said the justices were responsible for a number of rulings in the past year that have usurped the authority of Venezuela's democratically-elected legislature, the National Assembly.

The new sanctions come as Maduro is facing increasing pressure at home and overseas to hold elections.

In the western city of Maracaibo, a 25-year-old was killed when he was crushed by a truck during a protest, the chief prosecutor's office said. "It's outrageo us and unacceptable for the United States to impose sanctions on a sovereign and independent nation in violation of Venezuela n and worldwide laws", she said on Twitter.

The new sanctions package was aimed at stepping up pressure on supporters of the leftist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro amid growing United States concern over a crackdown on mass street protests.

A protester demonstrates against the Venezuelan government outside the Organization of American States during a special meeting in April.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez took to Twitter to reject the US-imposed measures, calling them "outrageous and unacceptable".