Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela hit out at the latest United States sanctions, announced on Tuesday against seven individuals and 20 entities, branding them "illegitimate and illegal."
The US imposed sanctions on a number of Venezuelans, including the owner of news network Globovision, for allegedly plundering billions of dollars from the country through black-market currency exchanges.
"The only body that can impose international sanctions is the (United Nations) Security Council," said Venezuela's Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez in a press conference.
"We're talking about arbitrary measures because they aren't covered by any international law."
She added: "They're unilateral because they're imposed abusively by a government, and illegitimately because they have no legality."
The US Treasury department claims the black-market exchange scheme generated more than $2.4 billion in proceeds that went to government-approved exchange houses and officials, who stashed their ill-gotten gains in US and European bank accounts and investments.
"Our actions against this corrupt currency exchange network expose yet another deplorable practice that Venezuela regime insiders have used to benefit themselves at the expense of the Venezuelan people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The news comes just two days before President Nicolas Maduro, himself already subject to US sanctions, is sworn in for a second six-year term.
He won a snap election in May boycotted by the opposition and branded fraudulent by the US, European Union and Organization of American States.
Globovision owner Raul Gorrin Belisario Gorrin, who lives in Miami, has already been charged in the US with paying bribes abroad and money laundering.
He is accused of bribing officials -- including Alejandro Andrade, a former official in the government of late Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez -- to secure the right to conduct foreign exchange transactions at rates favorable to the Venezuelan government.
The US has sanctioned a number of individuals in Venezuela as it cranks up the pressure on the Maduro regime it blames for the country's economic meltdown.
Poverty is widespread in Venezuela where people face shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine, as well as failing public services.
According to the UN, 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 to escape economic hardship.
Maduro claims the sanctions cost the country $20 billion in 2018. The opposition says the government's control of foreign exchange, which has been in place since 2003, has generated $300 billion in illicit gains.