U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuela's First Lady Cilia Flores

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What irony! While President Trump sounded tough on Venezuela in his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, he effectively undermined efforts by five Latin American democracies to request an International Criminal Court probe into Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles as he chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council held during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in NY, U.S., September 26, 2018.

"Today's action shows that the United States will continue to take concrete and forceful action against those who are involved in the destruction of democracy in Venezuela as well as those who are enriching themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people", the Treasury Department said on Tuesday.

President Trump said he wants the best for the country as well as the people there, adding, the US will always stand with its allies.

"I would certainly be open to it, I'm willing to meet with anybody", Trump said as he arrived at the United Nations headquarters.

Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina will be joined by Canada in submitting the initiative against Venezuela's government, according to two officials familiar with the plans.

Maduro slammed the sanctions, describing them as a badge of honor for Venezuelan revolutionaries.

"President Maduro relies on his inner circle to maintain his grip on power, as his regime systematically plunders what remains of Venezuela's wealth".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin anticipated the sanctions against Maduro's wife would get the corrupt Venezuelan strongman's attention.

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Countries in the region say they are struggling to cope with the influx of Venezuelans and a group 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as Canada, known as the the Lima Group, are due to meet on Tuesday in NY to discuss how to deal with the mass migration.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro walks with his wife Cilia Flores upon their arrival at the airport in Beijing, China, on September 13, 2018.

Maduro has been seeking a meeting with Trump for nearly two years and has watched with frustration as the USA leader has talked with American adversaries like North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin while shunning Venezuelan entreaties. The president is a vocal critic of socialism and communism and has used impoverished regimes like Venezuela and North Korea to highlight the stark consequences that result from these ideologies.

Adding to the political pressure, a bi-partisan group of 11 senators on Monday introduced sweeping legislation that calls for expanding humanitarian relief to Venezuelans by $40 million and increasing pressure on Maduro's government. Maduro also this year freed a former Utah missionary jailed for more than two years on weapons charges in a bid to draw close to the White House.

USA pressure on Maduro has increased as the South American nation deals with hyperinflation, food shortages and declining oil production.

Trump said Wednesday that all USA options are on the table to help end the political, economic and humanitarian chaos in Venezuela - even the "strong ones". I want the people to be safe.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled into neighboring countries in the last four years, threatening to upset regional stability.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire reported this story at the United Nations and AP writer Scott Smith reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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