The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese firm China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC), accusing it of supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to undermine democracy. The US Treasury Department in a statement said the Chinese company supported the leftist government of Maduro in its “efforts to restrict internet service and conduct digital surveillance and cyber operations against political opponents”. “The United States will not hesitate to target anyone helping to suppress the democratic will of the Venezuelan people and others around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the Treasury’s announcement and asking for the government’s official policy on blocking web content. CEIEC also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Venezuelans have for years said that their computers and phones cannot access certain websites linked to the opposition or some local news agencies that openly criticise the government. Those using broadband services provided by state-run telecommunications provider Venezuelan National Telephone Company (CANTV) are generally the most affected, but users of private services also face restrictions. Venezuela resumes direct oil shipments to China despite US sanctions Health workers who this year signed up to receive bonus payments through opposition leader Juan Guaido had to do so via VPN services because the site built by Guaido’s team was blocked, according to participants of the programme. The Treasury said CEIEC since 2017 has been supporting the Maduro government and has provided software, training and technical expertise to entities of Venezuela’s government, including CANTV. Washington in January 2019 recognised Venezuelan politician Guaido as the OPEC nation’s rightful leader and has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure in the aftermath of Maduro’s 2018 re-election, widely described as fraudulent. Maduro remains in power, backed by Venezuela’s military as well as Russia, China and Cuba. Monday’s action freezes any US assets of the Chinese firm and generally bars Americans from dealing with it. The Treasury also issued a licence authorising the “wind down” of transactions with the Chinese company until January 14.