Members of the Constituent Assembly
By Sara Barderas (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – The United States today imposed sanctions on eight more Venezuelan officials, all related to the recently installed Constituent Assembly and among whom is the older brother of the late President Hugo Chavez.
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included eight officials on the sanctioned list, which means that as of today all assets they may have in the United States are frozen and that no US citizen can do business with them.
The new sanctions came nine days after Donald Trump’s administration included Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on the top Treasury list, along with presidents Bashar Al Assad (Syria), Kim Jong-un (North Korea) and Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe).
“President Maduro installed his illegitimate Constituent Assembly to continue strengthening his dictatorship and continues to tighten his control over the country,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“This disparagement of the regime of the desires of the Venezuelan people is unacceptable and the United States will be with them in opposition to the tyranny until Venezuela becomes a peaceful and prosperous democracy,” he added.
The Constituent Assembly is a power that stands above all other institutions. It was summoned by Maduro to draft a new constitution and is composed exclusively of people favorable to the president.
The Assembly was elected on July 30 amid strong opposition protests and international criticism, and took office last Friday. One of its first moves was to summarily remove Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who from Chavismo has become an important and intolerable critical voice with Maduro and his government.
Among those newly sanctioned by the United States are six people who have played a significant role in organizing the Constituent Assembly and who were also elected to join the body.
One of them is Adan Chavez Frias, older brother of the late Hugo Chavez and minister of Culture until his election to the Constituent Assembly.
Sanctioned along with him are Francisco Jose Ameliach Orta, Erika del Valle Farias Pena, Carmen Teresa Melendez Rivas, Ramon Dario Vivas Velasco and Hermann Eduardo Escarra Malave,
Along with those six, the Treasury Department sanctioned Tania D’Amelio Cardiet, rector of the National Electoral Council; And Colonel Bladimir Lugo Armas, the military commander of the command installed in the Legislative Palace.
The United States considers the election and establishment of the Constituent Assembly a definitive confirmation of the rupture of the constitutional and democratic order in Venezuela.
Last week, when announcing the sanctions against Maduro, both Mnuchin and National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, called the Venezuelan president a dictator.
The Trump administration placed all those elected to the Constituent Assembly as potential sanctions targets in the future. Today’s are the first elected officials since that warning.
The big question now is whether the United States will take the step of imposing other sanctions on Venezuela. For weeks, there has been speculation about a possible oil embargo or other measures related to oil.
“All the options are on the table today,” Mnuchin said last week. “Our goal is not to do something that damages the people of Venezuela,” he said. “We will continue to monitor all our options.”