US Slaps Sanctions on Venezuela’s ‘Dictator’ Maduro in Wake of ‘Constituent Assembly’ Vote
The US government has imposed personal sanctions targeting Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in response to Maduro’s ‘Constituent Assembly’ election held on Sunday amid growing violence over the long-standing antigovernment protests led by the Venezuelan opposition.
Last week, the US imposed sanctions on 13 top officials of Venezuela’s government for “undermining democracy”, a move slammed by Maduro as “insolent” and “imperialist”.
Earlier on Monday, there were reports that the administration of US President Donald Trump was considering imposing more sanctions against the regime of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, this time on its oil sector. Meanwhile, key Latin American countries declared they did not recognize the vote for a Constituent Assembly initiated by Maduro.
Late on Sunday night, Venezuela’s controversial President Maduro claimed victory in Sunday’s vote for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution – a vote which was boycotted by the opposition, amid growing violent antigovernment protests.
The violent antigovernment protests in Venezuela, which have lasted for 122 days now, have already claimed 113 lives, and have injured thousands, while thousands of other protesters have been arrested by the police. Five people were killed during last week’s antigovernment general strike.
Protesters across Venezuela took to the streets on April 1 to demand the resignation of President Maduro, the successor of late leader Hugo Chavez and his leftist ideology, Chavism (Chavismo), after the country’s courts tried to strengthen the regime even further.
The street protests began in response to decisions by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to temporarily assume some of the responsibilities of the opposition-minded National Assembly, and to revoke the immunity of the legislators.
Although both decisions were overturned within days, opposition leaders continue to lead the protests aimed at toppling President Nicolas Maduro, removing the members of the Supreme Court, restoration of local and regional elections, and release of political prisoners.
Venezuela’s President Maduro calls the protesters “terrorists” and insists the demonstrations are a cover for a coup plot orchestrated by the US.
The Protesters’ motivation was boosted at the beginning of May when Maduro announced he would call up a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.
An overwhelming majority of those who voted in the Venezuelan opposition’s recent unofficial referendum rejected Maduro’s plan to change the constitution and supplant the opposition-leaning Parliament with a “Constituent Assembly”.
The US government has imposed sanctions personally on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Monday.
Maduro was designated under an executive order, which authorizes sanctions against current or former officials of the government of Venezuela and others “undermining democracy in Venezuela.”
The new US sanctions come a day after the Maduro government held elections for a National Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente, or ANC).
According to the US Treasury Department, the ANC “aspires illegitimately to usurp the constitutional role of the democratically elected National Assembly, rewrite the constitution, and impose an authoritarian regime on the people of Venezuela” – therefore representing “a rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order.”
It also noted that the Maduro administration has proceeded with the ANC even though Venezuelans and democratic governments worldwide “have overwhelmingly opposed it as a fundamental assault on the freedoms of the Venezuelan people.”
“The creation of the ANC follows years of Maduro’s efforts to undermine Venezuela’s democracy and the rule of law,” the US Treasury Department said.
As a result of the newly imposed sanctions, all assets of Nicolas Maduro subject to US jurisdiction are frozen, and US persons are prohibited from dealing with him.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” said US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
“By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” he added.
“Anyone who participates in this illegitimate ANC could be exposed to future U.S. sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela,” Mnuchin concluded.
OFAC reminded that Nicolas Maduro was elected President of Venezuela on April 14, 2013, following the death of former President Hugo Chavez.
Maduro held previous roles in the Venezuelan government, including as Executive Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
According to the US Department of the Treasury, under Maduro, the Venezuelan government has “deliberately and repeatedly abused the rights of citizens through the use of violence, repression, and criminalization of demonstrations”.
Maduro’s regime is further accused of routinely cracking down on opposition parties through police measures and the use of force, committing widespread human rights abuses, and engaging in systemic corruption.
“Any member of the opposition or critic of the regime risks being detained, imprisoned, assaulted, tortured, and assassinated,” OFAC said.
“Despite having among the world’s largest oil reserves, tens of millions of Venezuelans are going hungry because the Government refuses to import sufficient food for the Venezuelan people, engages in rampant corruption around currency and the exchange rate regime, and rejects offers of humanitarian aid,” it elaborated.
The new anti-Venezuelan sanctions of the US, this time on President Maduro, have been introduced in consultation with the US State Department, with the US government reiterating its calls for a restoration of the democratic process in Venezuela.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Ugly Bargain: How the European Union and Bulgaria’s Post-Communist Oligarchy Fit Together“, among other books.