WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose “strong and swift” economic sanctions on Venezuela if President Nicolas Maduro goes ahead with plans to create a super-legislature known as a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote, capable of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution.
The warning comes a day after more than 7 million Venezuelans participated in a symbolic referendum vote to reject Maduro’s plan. On Sunday, an estimated 98 percent of the nation’s opposition supporters voted against the proposed assembly.
“Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator,” Trump said in a statement issued Monday night by the White House.
Trump also warned that “the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”
Trump’s statement echoes the sentiment of Venezuelan opposition leaders, who branded Maduro a dictator back in March when Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which remains loyal to Maduro, annulled the nation’s democratically elected congress.
The decision – widely seen as an attempt to authorize Maduro’s oil joint ventures – prompted opposition protesters to storm the streets of Venezuela, waving signs that read “No to Dictatorship.”
Despite being democratically elected in 2013, Maduro has been accused of carrying out an authoritarian regime by jailing opposition leaders, censoring news outlets, postponing the nation’s free elections, and ruling by decree since the opposition took control of congress in 2015.
Many also blame Maduro for doing little to curb Venezuela’s failing economy and humanitarian crisis, which has resulted in severe shortages of food and medicine.
On Monday, opposition leaders called for a 24-hour nationwide strike on July 20, which could bring the nation’s economy to a temporary halt.