8.01.2017

Nicolas Maduro defiant as US slaps him with sanctions | News

A defiant President Nicolas Maduro mocked fresh US sanctions against him after a disputed and deadly weekend vote in Venezuela to elect a new legislative body.

The sanctions came as electoral authorities said more than eight million Venezuelans voted on Sunday to create a constitutional assembly – a turnout doubted by independent analysts.

The election, which spurred unrest that killed at least 10 people, was labelled illegitimate by leaders across the Americas and Europe.

Maduro, however, said on Monday evening that he had no intention of deviating from plans to rewrite the constitution and lashed out at US sanctions, saying the move smacked of “imperialism”.

Venezuela vote electoral body: Turnout 41.5 percent

“They don’t intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don’t intimidate me for a moment,” Maduro told a cheering audience. “I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever.”

“Bring on more sanctions,” he told US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, two prominent opposition leaders who urged Venezuelans to join protests against Maduro were taken from their homes overnight on Monday. 

Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezema, who were both under house arrest, were picked up by intelligence services late at night, members of their families said on Twitter. 

Disputed vote

The National Electoral Council put turnout in Sunday’s vote at 41.53 percent, a result that would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013.

The opposition coalition estimated only 2.5 million ballots were cast.

Colombia, Mexico, Peru and other nations joined the US in saying they did not recognise the results of Sunday’s election.

READ MORE: What is a National Constituent Assembly?

However, old allies Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia stood by Maduro.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it hoped countries “who apparently want to increase economic pressure on Caracas will display restraint and abandon their destructive plans”.

Boycotted by the opposition, and voted for largely by state employees, the Constituent Assembly was made up solely of members of Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party including his wife, Cilia Flores.

It will have the task of rewriting the country’s constitution and will have far-reaching powers, including the right to dissolve the opposition-controlled National Assembly and change laws.

It is due to be installed on Wednesday.

Maduro said he would use the assembly’s powers, among other measures, to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities.

At least 120 people have been killed in four months of anti-government protests as the country is faced with a series of economic challenges and food and medicine shortages.

Opposition vows to continue fight

Under the new US sanctions, all of Maduro’s assets subject to US jurisdiction were frozen, and Americans are barred from doing business with him, the US Treasury Department said.

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

The financial impact of the new sanctions was not immediately clear as Maduro’s holdings in US jurisdictions, if he has any, are not publicised.

Other heads of state currently subject to US sanctions include Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

For the moment, the Trump administration has not delivered on threats to sanction Venezuela’s oil industry, which could raise US gas prices.

Julio Borges, the president of the opposition-led National Assembly, told Venezuelan news channel Globovision that Maduro’s foes would continue protesting until they won free elections.

He said Sunday’s vote gave Maduro “less legitimacy, less credibility, less popular support and less ability to govern”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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