NEW YORK    -   The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on the son of Nicolás Maduro, in the latest attempt to tighten the screws on Venezuela’s embattled leader.

The move by the US treasury depart­ment freezes any US assets belonging to the president’s son – Nicolás Maduro Guerra, or Nicolasito – and bars Ameri­cans from doing business with him.

“Maduro relies on his son Nicolasito and others close to his authoritarian re­gime to maintain a stranglehold on the economy and suppress the people of Venezuela,” said the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.

Like his father, Nicolasito is tall and portly; at 29 years old, he is one of the youngest political figures in Maduro’s inner circle.

He is allegedly a major player in Venezuela’s gold traAG

de. According to Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, a former spy chief who recently fled to the US, an assistant of Nicolasito set up a company to buy gold from miners and sell it to Venezuela’s central bank at inflated rates.

Little is known about Nicolasito’s per­sonal life, although he is understood to be married with two children. His Twit­ter biography describes him as an eco­nomics graduate and a flautist in the world-famous Sistema network of youth orchestras, although government critics have expressed doubt over both claims.

His political career appears to have taken off soon after his father was elect­ed president in 2013, when at the age of 23 he was appointed as the head of Venezuela’s body of inspectors, fueling accusations of nepotism.

In 2014 he was also named as direc­tor of the Venezuelan School of Cinema, again prompting incredulity about his credentials. “Maduro’s son knows noth­ing [about cinema]” the feted Venezu­elan playwright José Tomás Angola said at the time. “What he does know is how to steal a camera.”