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31 Jul, 2017 19:26

US Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president Maduro

US Treasury sanctions Venezuelan president Maduro

The US Treasury Department has announced that it is sanctioning Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, describing the Constituent Assembly elections held in the country on Sunday as “illegitimate.”

In an update on Monday, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it had added Maduro to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. This means that any US-based assets of his have been frozen, and American citizens are forbidden from conducting any business with him.

"The following individual has been added to OFAC's SDN List: MADURO MOROS, Nicolas… President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," the update reads.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House considers the elections held in Venezuela to be illegitimate and holds Maduro responsible.

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

Maduro promised to continue to protect his country, despite the newly announced sanctions. In a televised address to the nation, the president emphasized that he does not "take orders from the empire,"telling his American counterpart, "Keep up your sanctions, Donald Trump!"

"I am proud of the alleged sanctions... because I do not wag my tail like a lying dog," Maduro said Monday after the election commission announced Sunday's voter's turnout. "I am punished for defending the natural resources of Venezuelan lands."

"I am the independent president of a free nation," he said, according to Globovision. "You're with Trump or Venezuela, you're with Trump or with democracy, you're with Trump or the free world."

Election meddling: US sanctions 13 Venezuela officials, warns against electing Constituent Assembly

Venezuela held National Constituent Assembly elections Sunday following months of street protests and clashes in which more than 100 people have died. Despite the violence and opposition boycott, over 8 million people participated in the democratic process by casting their votes for the 545 candidates who will be empowered to draft a new constitution.

Ahead of the vote, the US Treasury had already slapped sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials for allegedly “undermining democracy” with the initiative.

The assembly will also have a mandate to deny the country’s lawmakers parliamentary immunity. Critics say the new government body will give the ruling Socialist Party unprecedented powers, despite president Nicolas Maduro’s pledge that the Assembly will become “place for dialogue.”

Maduro claimed victory in Sunday’s vote, but a number of countries, including the UK, the US and Argentina refused to recognize the election, the final results of which are yet to be announced.

Russia, however, praised the vote as laying the basis for a peaceful resolution of the contradictions plaguing Venezuelan society.

“We regret to note that opposition forces did not respond to the call to take part in the vote, but instead tried to hamper the elections, provoking clashes that have resulted in loss of life. We urge the opposing parties to stop the pointless violent confrontation,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Throughout the course of the unrest, which boiled over at the end of March after the Supreme Court ruled to take over the duties of the National Assembly, Venezuelan officials have blamed foreign powers for fueling the violence. Politicians also claimed that the scale of the protests is largely exaggerated in the media.

A week before the elections, Maduro accused the US of plotting “regime change” in Caracas after CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a comment about discussing “transition” in Venezuela with regional partners.