As a response to the unrest that started in Venezuela in April, President Donald Trump's administration imposed sanctions on eight Venezuelan Supreme Court justices on Thursday.
During a press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Washington, D.C., Trump said that the U.S. was working with Colombia and other allies to do what is necessary to resolve the situation in Venezuela.
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. It was also hours after Venezuelan authorities prevented a known politician from traveling to New York for a meeting at the United Nations to discuss the crisis.
"Venezuela is a mess," Trump said on Thursday.
The U.S. Treasury was freezing the assets of Maikel Moreno, the president of the Supreme Court and justices Luis Fernando Damiani Bustillos, Arcadio Delgado Rosales, Gladys Gutierrez Alvarado, Juan Jose Mendoza, Calixto Ortega, Lourdes Suarez and Carme Zuleta de Merchan.
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. He has denied the accusations.
Human Rights advocates say Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro exerts controls over the judiciary. Leopoldo Lopez is one of Maduro's many political opponents who remain behind bars. 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.
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 international pressure. There has been dissent in both Venezuela's legal community and the military, as some Chavistas have lost trust in Maduro.
On Thursday, Venezuelan prosecutors charged three soldiers and two police officers in the deaths of a teen and a father this week in the state of Tachira. Maduro's opposition was planning a larger Saturday protest nationwide to demand elections.
Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this story in Miami. Local 10 News Cody Weddle reported from Caracas.