U.S. weighs sanctions against Venezuela amid Maduro’s pursuit of ‘full dictatorship’

by WorldTribune Staff, July 19, 2017

The Trump administration is considering sanctions against Venezuela amid Nicolas Maduro’s push for the so-called Constituent Assembly, which Washington says would grant the socialist president a “full dictatorship.”

Polls show Venezuela’s ruling Socialists would be thrashed in any conventional election. A majority of people oppose the Constituent Assembly, which critics have said is a sham election skewed to give Maduro a majority.

President Nicolas Maduro vowed that the July 30 election would go ahead despite a boycott and escalating protests from a majority-backed Venezuelan opposition. / Miraflores Press via EPA

U.S. officials said they are preparing sanctions against several senior Venezuelan government figures in an effort to pressure Maduro to cancel the Constituent Assembly vote scheduled for July 30.

Sanctions could target Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello for alleged rights violations, the U.S. officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. President Donald Trump on July 17 vowed to take “strong and swift economic actions” if Maduro goes ahead with the vote on the Constituent Assembly, a new body that would have power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution and supersede all institutions.

“All options are on the table,” including possible measures against Venezuela’s oil sector such as banning its crude imports to the United States, a senior Trump administration official told reporters on a conference call.

An infuriated Maduro told a specially convened state security council that “No one gives Venezuela orders, no foreign government. Donald Trump is not the boss of Venezuela.”

Maduro vowed that the July 30 election would go ahead despite a boycott and escalating protests from a majority-backed Venezuelan opposition, and growing foreign condemnation from the European Union to major Latin American countries.

“The Constituent Assembly should be abandoned … The whole world is asking for that,” said Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos. Maduro condemned him and Brazil’s President Michel Temer as “lackeys” of Washington.

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