White House backs increased Venezuela sanctions

Picture released by the Venezuelan presidency's press office shows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on November 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Miguel Angulo) (Presidencia/AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - The White House would support increased sanctions against Venezuela, a US administration official said in a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Failed efforts from Latin American allies to reform the government of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro have led President Barack Obama to switch his stance on increased sanctions, national security adviser Antony Blinken said while facing questions from lawmakers.

"We would not oppose moving forward with additional sanctions," Blinken said.

Blinken was answering questions during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing to consider his nomination to serve as deputy secretary of state.

The US hit Venezuela government officials with travel bans in July, but lawmakers said they didn't receive White House support for a sanctions bill against the Maduro government.

Those sanctions backed by Republican Senator Mark Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez were derailed before coming up for a vote at the end of the summer.

During the hearing Wednesday, Menendez said the Venezuelan government was using its military to repress the people and stage sham trials.

Rights abuses continue and the country's political situation hasn't improved, Menendez said.

Blinken said he agreed with the criticism and confirmed there was executive support for congressional sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

"We share your views of the Maduro government and his leadership," Blinken said.