CARACAS, VENEZUELA (CBSMiami) — The United States has slapped sanctions against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro following a controversial election.
The U.S. Treasury Department says the sanctions also apply to current and former officials of the Venezuelan government who are “undermining democracy in Venezuela.”
“The strong and courageous actions by the Venezuelan people to stand for democracy, freedom, and the rule of law have been continually ignored by Nicolas Maduro who dreams of becoming a dictator. Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a statement.
The sanctions come a day after Maduro’s government held elections for a National Constituent Assembly which the Treasury Department says “aspires illegitimately usurp the constitutional role of the democratically elected National Assembly, rewrite the constitution, and impose an authoritarian regime on the people of Venezuela.”
Mnuchin went on to say the controversial vote, “represents a rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order.”
As part of the sanctions, Maduro’s assets that are under U.S. jurisdiction have been frozen and those in the U.S. are not allowed to deal with Maduro.
“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 strive to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” said Mnuchin.
At a Venezuelan restaurant in Doral, the vote was the main topic of conversation.
“The biggest demonstration of fraud that we have in history,” said Arquimedes Rivero.
Daniel Manrique added, “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a challenge. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Eduardo Gamarra, a politics and international relations professor at Florida International University, said he’s skeptical about the impact U.S. sanctions would have.
“When Cuba fell to Castro in 1959, many people who fled the island thought, ‘This is going to be a matter of months. This is going to be a matter of years,’ and here we are 60 years later and Castro still has control over Cuba,” Gamarra said.
In Venezuela, police and protesters battled, as they have for months, in the streets.
Demonstrators believe the election continues to hurtle the country toward dictatorship, with President Maduro and his socialist party at the helm.
“Fraud, constitutional fraud,” said a protester about the election.
Protesters like Juan Carlos Gutierrez said they were threatened with 10 years in jail if caught marching the streets.
“We have a little piece of democracy and they kill it — the government is killing it,” said Gutierrez.
“By rewriting the constitution,” said another protester.
Voting sites sat largely empty across the country, as many Venezuelans who favor the opposition stayed away from the polls.
Others, like Ivana Nava, took to the streets instead – even as gunfire was heard nearby.
“We live in a dictatorship right now,” said Nava.
The National Police were targets too. An explosion injured seven officers on motorcycles.
Maduro supporters called the protesters terrorists.
Falling oil prices, coupled with skyrocketing inflation, have crippled Venezuela’s economy. Oil accounts for nearly half of the government’s revenue. Venezuela is the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S., which buys about a third of the country’s crude.
Young Venezuelans say they just want their voices heard.