WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama signed a law Thursday allowing sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of protesters during anti-government demonstrations that rocked the country earlier this year.
The text approved just over a week ago by both houses of Congress would freeze assets and deny visas to Venezuelan authorities responsible for violence and political detentions triggered by the protests.
Thousands of activists were arrested and more than 43 people were killed during mass demonstrations that raged from February to May against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the elected successor of late strongman Hugo Chavez.
Maduro has repeatedly accused the United States of fomenting the protests and seeking to overthrow and even assassinate him.
The Venezuelan leader condemned the sanctions law Thursday in a series of Twitter posts, calling it a "misstep" and likening it to the US policy isolating Cuba, which was overturned Wednesday as Obama and Cuba's leader Raul Castro announced a bilateral rapprochement.
Obama "on the one side recognises the failure of the policies of aggression and blockade against our sister Cuba... On the other side, he begins a new stage of attacks" against Venezuela, Maduro tweeted.
Caracas and Washington have had strained diplomatic ties since Chavez first came to power in 1999, leading to the withdrawal of ambassadors from each other's countries in 2010.
However, the United States is the main buyer of Venezuelan oil.