April 19, 2018 / 7:42 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. says governments to increase pressure on Venezuela

(Adds details from Treasury statement, background on Venezuelan crisis)

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - The United States and a group of other nations have agreed to boost cooperation to deny “corrupt” Venezuelan officials and their support networks access to the international financial system, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday.

“Concrete actions are necessary to restrict the ability of corrupt Venezuelan officials and their support networks from abusing the international financial system,” Mnuchin said in a statement issued after a meeting on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.

The meeting included representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Britain, and the United States, the Treasury said.

Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is mired in a deep economic and political crisis marked by widespread food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation and growing insecurity. Critics blame the crisis on the policies of the OPEC member’s socialist government.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the downturn is the result of an “economic war” led by the country’s opposition and the United States. He is seeking re-election in a May 20 vote.

The officials who met with Mnuchin said Venezuela could get more international support if it had a government that warranted the backing of the region, with countries aiming to have support measures ready for “swift deployment when circumstances warrant,” according to the Treasury.

Branded a dictatorship by France, the United States and some of its South American neighbors, Maduro’s government is accused of repressing opposition and dissent and dragging Venezuela toward authoritarianism.

The United States and the European Union have extended a range of sanctions against Venezuela, although some experts say it is unclear whether they have had a significant impact on Maduro’s policies. (Reporting by David Lawder and Jason Lange Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)

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