Venezuela leader’s foes levy new sanc­tions and fresh strike

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro at home and abroad tried again Wed­nes­day to pres­sure the so­cial­ist leader into halt­ing his plans to re­write Venezuela’s con­sti­tu­tion though there was no pub­lic sign their ef­forts were work­ing.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced sanc­tions on 13 cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of Maduro’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, freez­ing their U.S. as­sets and bar­ring Amer­i­cans from do­ing busi­ness with them. The U.S. also joined with a dozen other re­gional gov­ern­ments in urg­ing Maduro to sus­pend Sun­day’s elec­tion of a na­tional as­sem­bly for rewrit­ing the char­ter.

Those moves came as a coali­tion of Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion groups or­ga­nized a sec­ond na­tional strike in a week. High­ways were mostly empty and busi­nesses shut­tered across the coun­try as mil­lions of peo­ple ob­served the 48-hour strike and ac­tivists threw up road­blocks in many neigh­bour­hoods to keep others from get­ting to work.

By late af­ter­noon, clashes be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers erupted at some road­blocks in Caracas, and the chief pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice re­ported at least one per­son killed. That in­creased the of­fi­cial count of dead in nearly four months of demon­stra­tions to at least 98.

Three days of protests are planned lead­ing up to Sun­day’s vote, start­ing with the strike and cul­mi­nat­ing Fri­day with a demon­stra­tion billed as a “takeover of Caracas.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said it is con­sid­er­ing fur­ther sanc­tions, in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on Venezue­lan oil im­ports, a po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing blow to Venezuela’s econ­omy.

A top Cuban of­fi­cial said his coun­try had no in­ten­tion of try­ing to me­di­ate a so­lu­tion to the cri­sis, re­ject­ing the idea of what he called “for­eign med­dling” and voic­ing full sup­port for Maduro, a key ide­o­log­i­cal and eco­nomic ally.

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