US imposes sanctions on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro over disputed vote

The US government has frozen any assets held by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in the US, after he held a controversial poll

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro celebrates the results of the election in Caracas
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro celebrates the results of the election in Caracas

The United States hit Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with direct sanctions on Monday over a disputed and deadly weekend vote, calling him a "dictator," while the leader refused to heed what he slammed as "imperial orders."

No oil-related measures were included in the announcement, but such measures remain under consideration, according to congressional sources and a person familiar with the White House's deliberations on the matter.

Under the sanctions, all of Maduro's assets subject to US jurisdiction were frozen, and Americans are barred from doing business with him, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said.

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"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."

Mnuchin added that anyone who participates in the new legislative superbody could be exposed to future US sanctions for undermining democracy in Venezuela.

In Caracas on Monday, Maduro celebrated the election of the new legislative superbody, which is expected to give the ruling Socialist Party sweeping powers. He mocked US criticism that the vote on Sunday was an affront to democracy.

Colombia, Mexico, Peru and other nations joined the US in saying they did not recognise the results of Sunday's election, which appointed a new "Constituent Assembly" superseding Venezuela's legislative body, the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Maduro lashed out at the sanctions, saying it smacked of American imperialism.

"I will not obey imperial orders," he said. "I am so proud, Mr Donald Trump," Maduro joked in English, before switching to slang in Spanish: "Go for it, already. I am being targeted with sanctions because I do not obey the orders of foreign governments."

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