United Nations court asked to probe Venezuela; leader defiant in speech

U.S. slaps sanctions on top Venezuelan officials, including President Maduro’s wife

The United States has been stepping up pressure on the South American country by imposing a string of sanctions, including ones on Maduro himself and the senior officials.

It appeared unlikely, however, that Maduro would cross paths with Trump, despite the USA president's comments earlier in the day that he was willing to meet with his Venezuelan counterpart if it would help ease suffering in the South American nation.

Maduro's speech at the General Assembly gathering of world leaders came hours after Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.

However the USA leader also told journalists "all options are on the table" because "I want to see Venezuela straightened out".

In his telling, the country's deep social and economic crises were being exaggerated in order to pave the way for a military invasion in the name of delivering humanitarian aid.

"We are continuing to designate loyalists who enable Maduro to solidify his hold on the military and the government while the Venezuelan people suffer", said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.

Venezuelan officials have widely rejected global criticism, saying they're driven by imperialist forces led by the U.S.to justify launching an invasion.

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed financial sanctions on four members of Maduro's inner circle, including his wife and the nation's vice president, on allegations of corruption.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control also sanctioned a network of companies maintained by businessman Rafael Alfredo Sarria Diaz as a front organization for Diosdado Cabello Rondon, president the Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly.

He nevertheless said he hoped to meet with Trump face to face.

On Tuesday, Trump said that the Maduro government "could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that", while labelling the country, ridden with economic and political problems, "a truly bad place in the world today".

Maduro has been seeking a meeting with Trump for nearly two years and has watched with frustration as the US leader has talked with American adversaries like North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin while shunning Venezuelan entreaties.

Trump's remarks drew a swift reaction from Venezuela, which since the time of Maduro's firebrand predecessor Hugo Chavez has lashed out at the United States over its history of interference in Latin America and has frequently justified policies by alleging that Washington was plotting to oust the leftist government. "We are announcing additional sanctions against the repressive regime, targeting Maduro's inner circle and close advisers", Trump said.

Colombia's new right-leaning president, Ivan Duque, used the UN General Assembly to call for a tougher approach to change the "dictatorship" of Venezuela as he sought worldwide assistance for neighboring countries to accommodate the migrants. Would Maduro meet with President Trump, and somehow defuse rising tensions with the United States in a manner similar to North Korea's Kim Jung Un? "And you know what I mean by strong".

Addressing the USA threats, Lavrov said afterward that "we are ready to offer all-around assistance for all of your plans", Russian news agencies reported. With hyperinflation in his nation spiraling toward 1 million percent and chronic shortages of food and medicines, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing the nation, overwhelming neighboring nations.

Maduro is scheduled to deliver a speech before the General Assembly on Wednesday, but the Venezuelan government still has not officially confirmed whether the president will travel to the United Nations headquarters in NY.

It came as somethng of a surprise that Maduro was at the General Assembly at all.

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