US Hits Venezuela with New Sanctions After Election

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It comes a day after the government held an election for a controversial Constituent Assembly that will supersede the opposition-controlled legislature and rewrite the constitution. "Why would so many people be voting if it was merely symbolic?" he said, describing the vote as the Venezuelan population's endorsement of the Bolivarian government that has been continuously democratically elected and certified by the global groups who have monitored their elections", he continued.

The new Constituent Assembly is set to replace the democratically elected members this week.

"This is the end of freedom of expression, and this freedom has been battered for some time now", said Attorney General Luisa Ortega.

But instead, the Venezuelan crisis took a turn for the worse.

The leaders of the Maduro opposition, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, were taken away from their homes by the Venezuelan intelligence service, Sebin, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

"The sanctions that will come from the United States - I'm not looking forward to them because that afflicts us as people", said a 33-year-old protester who identified himself only as Victor.

External pressure is growing, but of mixed effectiveness.

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Venezuela, an OPEC producer, has the largest crude oil reserves in the world, but can't even feed its own people. So that's why people - they were expecting, like, a more strong reaction from the opposition. A vote on that yesterday elected a new assembly to carry out that task.

After four months of demonstrations, which sometimes turned violent, some fear Venezuela may see further conflicts, as some opposition youth were reported to have been fighting with government forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails. We won't accept an illegitimate government.

Several governments recognized the outcome, but Maduro ignored it. "We make the regime responsible for his life and integrity!"

But beyond the symbolism this is likely to have little impact - not least because of the diminished stature and moral authority of the White House under Donald Trump.

But after the announcement, an official said Trump's administration held off on sector sanctions due to possible complications, including some involving subsidiaries. This is now being discussed, but the pain would be felt across borders. Soaring inflation as a result of government price controls has created mass shortages of food and medicine. Such a move would probably cause a fresh wave of refugees to neighbouring countries.

Venezuela's credit-default swap spreads spiked on Friday and remained steady Monday, with the probability of default within a year reaching 62%, the highest since February 2016, when oil fell below $30 per barrel, according to Victor Fu, an emerging-market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. "More than 8 million in the middle of's when imperialism challenges us that we prove ourselves worthy of the blood of the liberators that runs through the veins of men, women, children and young people".

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona were urging Trump to hit Venezuela hard after Sunday's vote.