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The US issued sanctions against Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro on Monday, characterising him as a “dictator” the day after he staged what many said was fraudulent vote to create an authoritarian “constituent assembly”.
The US Treasury said all his assets subject to US jurisdiction are now frozen, and US persons are prohibited from dealing with him. The value and type of these assets was not clear.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement, which said Mr Maduro’s effort to rewrite the constitution represented a rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order.
Many world leaders have rushed to condemn Mr Maduro and are refusing to recognise his assembly.
“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,” said Mr Mnuchin.
Crucially, the US also urged those elected to the constituent assembly, which the US refers to as “illegitimate”, to refuse office. The US has threatened further sanctions, raising questions as to whom the US does deem the legitimate authorities in Venezuela.
The government in Caracas said 8.1m people participated in Sunday’s election for an assembly that will have the power to shut down Congress, re-write the constitution, draft new laws and scrap all future elections in Venezuela, including a presidential ballot scheduled for next year.
The opposition said the figure was farcical and that only around 2m of Venezuela’s 19.5m eligible voters turned up. Other estimates put the turnout at between 2m-4m.