Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a Council of Ministers meeting at Miraflores Palace in Caracas on 16 MayReuters

The US has imposed new sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses.

The Treasury department announced the move on Thursday (19 May), saying it was freezing the assets of eight Venezuelan government officials on the Supreme Court.

Steve Mnuchin, who is President Donald Trump's pick as treasury secretary, announced the sanctions in a statement.

"The Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government's mismanagement and corruption," he said.

"Members of the country's supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch's authority.

"By imposing targeted sanctions, the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country."

It comes as the country has been plunged into chaos with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest President Nicolas Maduro's government, which has responded with a heavy show of force.

Protesters are demanding elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid and autonomy for the opposition-led legislature, however Maduro has labelled the protest a violent coup attempt.

His government has also denied the accusations made by the US government and called them a pretext for trying to overthrow Maduro.

The Supreme Court justices added to the sanctions blacklist were Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno, Calixto Ortega, Arcadio Delgado, Federico Fuenmayor, Carmen Zuleta, Lourdes Suarez Anderson and Juan Jose Mendoza.

More than 40 people have been killed since the unrest began.