The Trump administration on Tuesday increased the pressure on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro by offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, Venezuela’s chief justice of the Supreme Court, accusing him of receiving bribes to influence rulings in criminal and civil cases.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the award on Tuesday, accusing Perez of “significant corruption” for receiving money and property in exchange for judicial actions, such as ordering specific defendants to be released or particular cases to be dismissed, in more than 20 judicial proceedings.
Pompeo said he also designated Perez, whom he described as “a Maduro crony,” and his wife under an act that targets foreign corruption and human rights violations, barring them entry into the United States. “Venezuela denounces to the international community the obsessive persecution of the U.S. ruling elite against the Venezuelan government and people, fabricated on false premises and accusations,” the ministry said, adding that Americans deserve a government that stands “for respecting international law, not for violating it.”
The reward offer is the latest move by the Trump administration to unseat Maduro in its push to establish a democratic transition in the country since his 2018 re-election was deemed illegitimate early last year by the National Assembly.
Since then, a coalition of more than 50 countries led by the United States has backed National Assembly head Juan Guiado’s claim to the interim presidency until new elections can be held.
However, U.S. officials have said Maduro has managed to hold on to power with the help of Cuba, Russia and China.
Pompeo said Tuesday’s public designation Perez and his wife, as well as the reward offer of $5 million, is to send a message that the United States will continue its campaign against the Maduro regime.
“The United States continues to stand with the people of Venezuela in their fight against corruption and for the peaceful restoration of democracy,” he said.
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