The Trump administration has announced sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, in retaliation for the latter’s threat against his opposition leaders and the elections which have been denounced by the international community as “illegitimate”. Notably, this is only the fourth time the US has imposed sanctions on a sitting head of state.
“Sunday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people. By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” US Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said on Monday.
“Anyone who participates in this illegitimate ANC could be exposed to future US sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela,” he said.
At a White House news conference, the National Security Adviser, Lt Gen H R McMaster said: “Since Trump’s inauguration, the administration has called on Maduro regime to respect Venezuela’s constitution, respect the role and authorities of the constitutionally established National Assembly, hold free and fair elections, address the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people, release political prisoners and stop oppressing its great people.”
“The regime has refused to heed this call and its recent actions culminating in yesterday’s outrageous seizure of absolute power through the sham election of the National Constituent Assembly represent a very serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere. Maduro is not just a bad leader, he is now a dictator,” McMaster said.
“The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of this oppression. We will work with our partners to hold accountable all those responsible for the escalating violence and ongoing human rights violations. The president promised strong and swift actions if the regime went forward with opposing the National Constituent Assembly on the Venezuelan people, and he will keep that promise,” McMaster said.
The US is broadening its effort to address the ongoing assault on Venezuela’s democratic institutions by the Maduro regime.
“As a result of today’s sanctions, all assets of Maduro subject to US jurisdiction are frozen and US persons are prohibited from dealing with him,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House news conference.
Mnuchin said Sunday’s “illegitimate” elections confirm that Maduro is a “dictator” who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.
“The National Constituent Assembly aspires illegitimately to usurp the constitutional role of democratically elected National Assembly, rewrite the constitution and impose an authoritarian regime on the people,” he said. “As such, it represents a rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional and Democratic order. By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and the support for the people of Venezuela, who strive to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” said the Treasury Secretary. Responding to questions, Mnuchin said the administration believes that sanctions do work.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and consider additional sanctions,” he added.
According to McMaster, Trump has prioritised his concern for the Venezuelan people and therefore he is only considering those options which would directly benefit them. Maduro was elected as the president of Venezuela on April 14, 2013, following the death of former President Hugo Chavez. Maduro held previous roles in the Venezuelan government, including as Executive Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Washington has been a longstanding opponent of Maduro’s government and of his predecessor but yesterday’s statement marks the first time that a senior official had publicly branded him a dictator.
Under Maduro, the US alleged, the Venezuelan government has deliberately and repeatedly abused the rights of citizens through the use of violence, repression, and criminalisation of demonstrations.
Any member of the opposition or critic of the regime risks being detained, imprisoned, assaulted, tortured, and assassinated, the US alleged.
Top Republican Senator Marco Rubio termed the imposition of sanctions on Maduro as “warranted”. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly,” Rubio said.