January 22, 2018

BBCI: Venezuela crisis: United States sanctions 13 top officials

27 July 2017, 11:23 | Santos West

US Advises Citizens in Venezuela to Gather Food Water Ahead of Opposition Rally REUTERS Carlos Garcia Rawlins

People look for groceries and goods at a supermarket in Caracas Venezuela

In Washington, the US Treasury unveiled a list of 13 current and former officials, including the interior minister, senior military brass, the president of the electoral council, and the finance chief of state oil company PDVSA, whose US assets would be frozen.

Critics say the body is a step towards a dictatorship, by bypassing or dissolving the opposition-held National Assembly.

The election is meant to place loyalists on a constituent assembly that Maduro will entrust with the task of rewriting the constitution. With the oil-exporting economy already in a tailspin, investors say some sort of ban on crude exports from Venezuela may force the country into default on its debt.

The leftist leader was also feeling the heat at home, where protesters backing the 48-hour national strike blocked roads with makeshift barricades and many stores remained shut for the day. Maduro over the weekend said the government had held talks with the opposition and that postponing the vote had been on the table but that the opposition did not follow through.

With U.S. President Donald Trump threatening economic sanctions on Venezuela, potentially aimed at the oil sector accounting for 95 percent of its export revenues, Maduro said he could count on "great friends" like China and India if needs be.

"We call on the Venezuelan government to cancel the national constituent assembly and to take concrete actions, with the opposition, to restore democratic order".

It is also threatening more penalties if he goes through with a controversial plan to rewrite the beleaguered country's constitution, with an election scheduled Sunday to elect delegates to a special assembly charged with drafting a new charter.

The sanctions, which have been expected for days, involve the freezing of all the assets they have in the United States and a ban on all U.S. citizens from carrying out transactions with them.

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Protests against the government have raged across Venezuela since April and earlier this month crossed the 100-day mark.

One option might include imposing restrictions on the oil that the US imports from Venezuela.

"He is actively looking to shield and shore up the rule of law in Venezuela and ensure the guarantee of the people because they are under siege", Calderon said. Every time a United States republican or rightwing democrat talks of Latin America, it is mentioned as the back yard of the USA which means that it is a part of the U.S. property and the U.S. has every right to decide what it will do with this property.

The government said it is targeting those involved with the election and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's alleged violent suppression of protests, corruption and currency manipulation.

Opposition leader and former political prisoner Leopoldo López capped off the strike with a video he published on Twitter, in which he reiterated the importance of peaceful protests.

Protester Oscar Leandro said the daily demonstrations would continue through election day despite the street battles with authorities. In recent days, thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia to start a new life.

So far, Zerpa is the only one known to have been arrested.

In preparation for the OAS summit the following month, Videgaray introduced the resolution criticizing Maduro's proposed Constitutional Assembly.

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