MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nicolas Maduro has put the final touches on his takeover of Venezuela’s government.
The constituent assembly, put in place by last Sunday’s election, was installed Friday morning. The new assembly replaces the old that was packed with opponents of the Maduro government.
Unrest continues in Caracas with the opposition charging that the election was a fraud, rigged, and Maduro is now a virtual dictator.
“Venezuela has turned into a Cuba-style dictatorship as a result of all of this stuff that went through in the fake referendum,” said Sen. Bill Nelson.
The Democratic U.S. senator met in Miami with local Venezuelans who oppose the Maduro regime.
Nelson said sanctioning Venezuelan officials is effective “because they all love to come to Miami and they love to stash cash in secret bank accounts in the safety of the Americas.”
It seems there’s bipartisan agreement on Venezuela.
“Every country in the region, except Cuba and Nicaragua, are supporting this,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said. “Every step we take, they support.”
Nelson has written to President Donald Trump, urging even tougher sanctions on Venezuela, including a ban on “at least some” imports of Venezuelan oil until constitutional order has been restored.
But he admits that’s tricky.
“You do not want to give him an excuse to say it is the Americans, the Yankees, that are trying to put their fist on your neck. It is a delicate balance,” he said.
Nelson is up for election next November. He will likely face current Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, who also spoke out against the Maduro regime on Friday.
In a statement, Scott said, “We will not tolerate Maduro’s assault on freedom and democracy and must continue to find ways to advocate for human rights in Venezuela.”
Scott said he approves of President Trump’s sanctions against Venezuela, and even introduced his own proposal prohibit the state from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro Regime.
“This is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with our state legislature and federal partners to take further action against the dictatorship,” Scott said.
Scott also called for the release of all political prisoners, like opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.
“We cannot accept anything short of the complete release of all political prisoners and for Maduro and his gang of thugs to step down,” he said. “The time is now to make room for real democratic leadership that respects the will and rights of everyone in Venezuela.”