US sanctions Venezuela officials close to 'former President' Maduro

Those targeted for sanctions are aligned with "illegitimate former" President Nicolas Maduro, according to the Treasury Department (AFP Photo/Marcelo GARCIA)

Washington (AFP) - The US Treasury announced Friday it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to crisis-hit Venezuela's "former" President Nicolas Maduro.

Those targeted are "aligned with illegitimate former President Nicolas Maduro, who continue to repress democracy and democratic actors in Venezuela," a Treasury Department statement read.

Among the five men is Manuel Quevedo, described by the Treasury as the "illegitimate" president of Venezuela's state-owned oil firm, PDVSA.

The sanctions mean the Treasury is freezing all assets in US control of the men, and blocking any US person from doing business with them.

Also included is Ivan Rafael Hernandez, commander of Maduro's presidential guard and head of the military counter-intelligence service, which the Treasury said "is responsible for serious human rights abuses and the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition."

The sanctions also hit Manuel Ricardo Cristopher, the head of Venezuela's intelligence service, who has overseen "mass torture, mass human rights violations and mass persecution" of the Venezuela opposition.

The other men are the commander of a special police unit and the first commissioner of the intelligence service.

The US last month announced that it recognized self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described Maduro as part of an "illegitimate mafia state" responsible for Venezuela's economic collapse.