HAVANA TIMES – The Trump administration imposed sanctions today on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a day after the controversial Constituent Assembly’s election in the South American country. The US government considered the vote a rupture of the constitutional and democratic order, dpa reported.
Maduro was qualified as a “dictator” and included by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) main list of US-sanctioned individuals, including Presidents Bashar Al Asad (Syria), Kim Jong -un (North Korea) and Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe).
That means that all the assets he may have in the United States remain frozen and that all US citizens are prohibited from doing business with him.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who belittles the desires of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “He joins the exclusive club that includes Mugabe, Asad and Kim Jong-un,” said National Security adviser HR McMaster.
[However, if President Maduro does not have assets in the United States nor wishes to do business with US citizens, the sanctions may have no effect.]
McMaster and Mnuchin appeared at a White House press conference immediately after the Treasury announced the move.
Mnuchin declined to give an estimate of the value of the assets of the Venezuelan president in the United States. The objective of the sanctions against him, according to his Department, is to make clear to Maduro the United States opposition to its policies, as well as show it support to the Venezuelan people. “We expect these sanctions to make Maduro regime officials reconsider how their actions have affected their country,” said the Treasury secretary.
Trump and his administration had warned the Venezuelan president that they would take strong and immediate economic action if he did not desist in the process of the Constituent Assembly.
In that context there has been much speculation over a possible oil embargo, which has not been imposed at the moment, although the White House does not close the door to doing so later. “All the options are on the table today,” said Mnuchin, repeating what senior officials have been saying for two weeks. “Our goal is not to do something that damages the people of Venezuela,” he noted. “We will continue to monitor all our options.”
With the election of the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, on a day when at least a dozen people died in protests, the United States considers that Maduro has crossed the line of the “rupture of the constitutional and democratic order” and places all the elected Assembly members as targets of possible sanctions in the future.
The Constituent Assembly aspires “illegitimately to usurp” the constitutional role of the National Assembly, according to the United States. The National Assembly was elected in 2015 and is controlled by the opposition. It was declared in contempt by the Supreme Court and none of its laws or resolutions have been observed by the Maduro government, a fact that began the wave of protests against Maduro in April.
The Venezuelan president urges that the Constituent Assembly draft a new Constitution for Venezuela, something interpreted by the United States and leaders of many other countries as the imposition of an authoritarian regime.
“The Constituent Assembly comes after years in which Maduro has worked to undermine Venezuela’s democracy and the rule of law,” said the Treasury Department, which accused the president of repeatedly abusing citizens’ rights through the use of violence, repression and criminalization of demonstrations.
“Under his leadership, the regime’s security forces have systematically repressed and criminalized opposition parties through arbitrary detention, military persecution of civilians and excessive use of force against demonstrators,” the statement said. It also accused Maduro of human rights abuses, economic mismanagement and systematic corruption.