Ending Putin’s support of Venezuela no easy feat for US

MOSCOW (AP) — In 2016, the head of Russia’s largest oil company traveled to the birthplace of Hugo Chavez, in the empty, sweltering plains of Venezuela, to unveil a giant bronze statue of the late socialist leader that he commissioned from a Russian artist. Now the Trump administration wants to break up that blossoming alliance between the two U.S. adversaries as part of its campaign to oust Chavez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on oil company Rosneft’s trading arm and its CEO, accusing the Geneva-based firm of providing a critical lifeline to Maduro. Analysts say the move will likely further strain relations between the U.S. and Moscow.