Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president over elections

Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president over elections
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The Treasury Department on Monday levied economic sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in retaliation for his decision to go through with elections to appoint a constitutional assembly.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added Maduro to its Specially Designated National (SDN) sanctions list Monday. 

All of Maduro's assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction were frozen, and U.S. residents are prohibited from financial transactions with him.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people. 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,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

There had been speculation that the Trump administration could impose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, the country’s most valuable resource. Those sanctions risked making the nation’s humanitarian crisis even worse, however.

Last week, OFAC added 13 Venezuelan officials to the SDN list as top Trump administration officials warned Maduro not to go through with the elections.

While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle applauded last week's sanctions and called for further action, some Democrats called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to avoid oil sanctions for fear of detonating further violence and instability in international oil markets.

In Sunday's vote, Venezuelans were called upon by Maduro to elect members of a National Constitutional Assembly (Asamblea Nacional Constituyente or ANC) to re-write the country's constitution in a bid to undercut the opposition-controlled parliament.

Street protests and unrest intensified during and after the election, with government forces using rubber bullets, tear gas and batons against opposition protesters, according to several reports.

Protests have intensified in the country since January, when the Maduro regime and opposition leaders cut off negotiations.

According to Foro Penal, a nongovernmental organization that keeps track of the violence, at least 67 people have died as a result of the repression and 403 have been jailed as political prisoners.

Maduro's push to appoint the ANC comes after his failure to de-fang the National Assembly — the country's parliament — using the country's supreme court.

Maduro is seeking to re-write Venezuela's constitution, which has been already heavily changed since the election of former President Hugo Chávez in 1998.