US im­poses sanc­tions on Maduro

‘Im­pe­ri­al­ist at­tack’ on Venezuela


VENEZUE­LAN Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro has de­fended him­self against sanc­tions im­posed by the US on Mon­day.

In a pub­lic ad­dress, Maduro de­clared: “Im­pose what­ever sanc­tions you like, but I am the leader of the free peo­ple.”

Ear­lier in the day, US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said: “All as­sets of Ni­co­las Maduro sub­ject to US ju­ris­dic­tion are frozen, and US per­sons are pro­hib­ited from deal­ing with him.”

Maduro lam­basted the sanc­tions as an “im­pe­ri­al­ist at­tack” against Venezuela’s Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly.

“Why are they sanc­tion­ing me? Be­cause I called demo­cratic elec­tions so that peo­ple can freely vote for the Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly,” he said. “I feel proud to be sanc­tioned by Mr Im­pe­ri­al­ist Don­ald Trump.”

Maduro said that pres­sure from the US would not de­rail the new as­sem­bly. “Venezuela will not be si­lenced,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to elec­toral au­thor­i­ties, over 8 mil­lion peo­ple voted in the elec­tion for the as­sem­bly on Sun­day – a turnout of over 41%.

Cuba praised the elec­tion and de­nounced what it called an in­ter­na­tional plot to sup­press the will of the Venezue­lan peo­ple in the wake of the US sanc­tions on its key ally.

Gov­ern­ments from Spain, Canada, Ar­gentina and Peru joined Wash­ing­ton in de­nounc­ing the vote, which was boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion.

“We know well these in­ter­ven­tion­ist prac­tices,” Havana said. The US im­posed a dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic em­bargo on the Caribbean is­land after its 1959 revo­lu­tion that Cuba says has cost it more than $100 bil­lion (R13.2 tril­lion).

Venezuela and Cuba be­came close al­lies in the late 1990s un­der the re­spec­tive lead­er­ships of Fidel Castro and his dis­ci­ple Hugo Chavez, both now de­ceased.

Their close per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship re­sulted in ex­ten­sive Venezue­lan aid to the Caribbean is­land and a shared strat­egy for pro­mot­ing Latin Amer­i­can unity against US in­flu­ence in the re­gion.

Elec­tions were con­ducted on Sun­day in Venezuela to elect 537 of the to­tal 545 mem­bers of the Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly. The re­main­ing eight seats be­long to in­dige­nous peo­ple.

The as­sem­bly was pro­posed by Maduro in May, to re­write the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion and break a po­lit­i­cal dead­lock that has paral­ysed the South Amer­i­can coun­try.

The right-wing op­po­si­tion coali­tion Demo­cratic Unity Round­table claims the as­sem­bly is an at­tempt by Maduro to con­sol­i­date power, and boy­cotted Sun­day’s vote.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­server Ser­gio Rodriguez Gelfen­stein said the US sanc­tions against Maduro were a sym­bolic mea­sure de­signed to show Wash­ing­ton’s dis­ap­proval of the rene­gade leader who de­fied a White House or­der to scrap Sun­day’s poll.

Per­sonal sanc­tions against Maduro are un­likely to harm US in­ter­ests, whereas eco­nomic sanc­tions against the South Amer­i­can coun­try could af­fect US busi­nesses, Rodriguez said.

Trump ini­tially said he was go­ing to take eco­nomic mea­sures against Cara­cas over the as­sem­bly. How­ever, “he be­gan to re­alise the im­pli­ca­tions that would have for the United States and changed his mind”, Rodriguez ex­plained.

“Now he takes this mea­sure, which has more of a sym­bolic value. I don’t know whether Pres­i­dent Maduro has (bank) ac­counts in the United States. I doubt it,” said Rodriguez.

So­ci­ol­o­gist Jose An­to­nio Egido dis­missed al­le­ga­tions by Venezuela’s con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion and its in­ter­na­tional al­lies that the rul­ing United So­cial­ist Party of Venezuela would sim­ply use the 545-mem­ber as­sem­bly to con­sol­i­date its power.

The as­sem­bly must re­flect a cross sec­tion of so­ci­ety, said Egido.

“The con­stituent as­sem­bly has to ex­press the will of the ma­jor­ity, not just of the chav­is­tas (gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers).”


Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro shows his bal­lot after cast­ing his vote for a con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly in Cara­cas on Sun­day.

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