Venezue­lan assem­bly de­mands probe and trial of ‘traitors’

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

CARA­CAS — The allpow­er­ful con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly passed a de­cree this week or­der­ing au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate and try Venezue­lans be­lieved re­spon­si­ble for sup­port­ing new U.S. eco­nomic sanc­tions.

The de­cree de­clares all those who pro­moted the lat­est U.S. re­sponse to the so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal con­flict as “traitors of the pa­tria” and di­rects the chief pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice to im­me­di­ately ini­ti­ate a probe.

The move came just days af­ter Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro vowed to prose­cute for trea­son op­po­nents he ac­cused of be­ing be­hind the U.S. fi­nan­cial sanc­tions.

Maduro sin­gled out Julio Borges, pres­i­dent of Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion-con­trolled congress, but Borges said Tuesday that he bore no re­spon­si­bil­ity for Venezuela’s grow­ing eco­nomic peril. “The only one re­spon­si­ble is Maduro,” Borges said.

The sanc­tions an­nounced last week pro­hibit Amer­i­can fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions from pro­vid­ing new money to the gov­ern­ment or the state oil com­pany, PDVSA. They also ban trad­ing in two bonds that the gov­ern­ment re­cently is­sued to cir­cum­vent its in­creas­ing iso­la­tion from Western fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

In ad­di­tion, the sanc­tions re­strict the Venezue­lan oil giant’s U.S. sub­sidiary, Citgo, from send­ing div­i­dends back to Venezuela — moves that Maduro has said will be dam­ag­ing to this na­tion’s be­lea­guered econ­omy.

U.S. of­fi­cials con­tend the sanc­tions were crafted to avoid caus­ing harm to ordi- nary Venezue­lans and pun­ish a gov­ern­ment that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump now brands a dic­ta­tor­ship.

France’s pres­i­dent, Em­manuel Macron, echoed that as­sess­ment Tuesday, say­ing Maduro’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is “a dic­ta­tor­ship” that is “try­ing to sur­vive at the cost of an un­prece­dented hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­tress.”

The sanc­tions are cer­tain to cause fur­ther strife in a coun­try where food short­ages are com­mon. The av­er­age Venezue­lan lost 19 pounds last year, ac­cord­ing to one study.

The assem­bly, which is sup­posed to write a new con­sti­tu­tion, was in­stalled in early Au­gust fol­low­ing a dis­puted elec­tion of del­e­gates. The assem­bly trumps all other branches of Venezuela’s gov­ern­ment and is rul­ing with vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited power.

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