WASHINGTON – The United States government has branded Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro “a dictator” and frozen any US assets, after the election of a new legislative body to redraft the country’s constitution in a vote described by Washington as a “sham.”
Under the sanctions, U.S. firms and individuals are banned from doing business with the socialist president.
The Sunday’s election was marred by violence, with widespread protests and at least 10 people killed. However, Mr. Maduro hailed the poll as a “vote for the revolution”.
But his political opponents have warned this could lead to the dissolution of existing powers and turn the country into a fully fledged dictatorship.
At his first public appearance after the vote, Maduro struck a belligerent tone, threatening to jail opposition legislators and promising to restructure the office of attorney general Luisa Ortega, who has become a prominent and vocal critic of his government.
Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, a vocal critic of the Maduro government, called the vote an expression of “dictatorial ambition”.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury Secretary 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.”
The U.S. had previously warned that it would not recognize the election, with President Donald Trump vowing “strong and swift economic actions” if it went ahead.