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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday called the situation in Venezuela a "disgrace to humanity" and said the deadly political crisis was possibly the worst of its kind in decades.

"We haven't really seen a problem like that... in decades, in terms of the kind of violence that we're witnessing," Trump told a press conference with visiting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

"People don't have enough to eat. People have no food. There's great violence. And we will do whatever is necessary and we will work together to do whatever is necessary to help with fixing that.

"What is happening is really a disgrace to humanity."

Shortly thereafter the US Treasury slapped sanctions on eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court, charging them with undermining the deeply divided country's democratic legislature in support of a corrupt government.

Trump's comments came one day after the Venezuelan government announced it was sending more than 2,500 troops to a trouble-hit region on the border with Colombia to try to quell weeks of violence that have claimed 44 lives nationwide.

Despite its vast oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies. The center-right opposition blames it all on mismanagement and corruption in the Socialist government.

President Nicolas Maduro in turn blames sabotage by the "bourgeois" opposition, which he says is backed by Washington.

"When you look at the oil reserves that they have, when you look at the potential wealth that Venezuela has, you sort of have to wonder why is that happening, how is that possible?" said Trump.

"It has been unbelievably poorly run for a long period of time, and hopefully that will change and they could use those assets for the good and to take care of their people," he said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2017

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