US slaps curbs on Venezuela regime
THE regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was hit by US sanctions and a 48-hour opposition-led nationwide strike on Wednesday, both aimed at thwarting his controversial plans to elect a new body to rewrite the constitution.
The bloodshed in the oil-rich but crisis-hit country resumed when a 30-year-old man died in a protest held during the strike, adding to a nationwide death toll of more than 100 since April.
In Washington, the US Treasury unveiled a list of 13 current and former officials, including the interior minister, senior military brass, the president of the electoral council, and the finance chief of state oil company PDVSA, whose US assets would be frozen.
The announcement came as Venezuela’s opposition launched its nationwide stoppage as part of a campaign to halt Sunday’s vote and, more broadly, force Maduro from office through early elections.
The vote, which Maduro has vowed will go ahead as planned, is to choose the 545 members of a “Constituent Assembly” to rival the opposition-held National Assembly and to redo the constitution.
But in a country suffering from widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, protesters are showing their discontent with Maduro’s leadership.
The left-wing Maduro has nevertheless remained defiant, saying the US sanctions made him more determined than ever to forge on with his plan.
The Venezuelan military has declared its loyalty to him.
Maduro branded US sanctions as “insolent,” as pressure piled up on him abroad and at home.
“Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are? The government of the world?” he said in a speech.
Some 70 percent of Venezuelans are opposed to the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.
The hardening political struggle has deepened fears that months of street violence could worsen.
The opposition has planned another major demonstration in the capital today. – AFP