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US accuses Venezuela’s leader of operating ’a kleptocracy’

UNITED NATIONS — A U.S. official is accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of “rapacious corruption” and operating “a kleptocracy” on a rarely seen scale that includes not only embezzling from the state-owned oil company but stealing from a government program created to feed millions of hungry people.

Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, alleged at an informal Security Council meeting Monday that corruption by Maduro, his wife Celia Flores and their inner circle “have laid low a once great nation, and impoverished millions.”

He said the result is “a humanitarian crisis threatening regional stability,” a near-collapse of Venezuela’s oil production, and an economy “now in a death spiral.”

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who organized and chaired the meeting, said corruption in Venezuela has unleashed “instability, violence and human misery.”