Treasury Dept. Slaps New Sanctions on Venezuela Targeting Key Officials

The Table of the unity democratic (MUD), the opposition coalition has already called a 24-hour general strike last week, has been organizing since nearly four months of protests nearly daily against Maduro, which he claims the starting. They say President Nicolas Maduro's administration has failed to reimburse them per strict currency controls. He said Chavistas and members of the ruling PSUV party will ensure all citizens can exercise their right to vote without any threats. On July 16th it claimed that seven million people voted in a symbolic referendum it called to reject the president's plans for the constitutional assembly. The right-wing MUD coalition has maintained its belligerent position, calling for a week of actions in hopes of disrupting the elections, which have by and large failed to gain any significant support.

Many Venezuelans were taking part in a 48-hour general strike which started on Wednesday, in protest at Sunday's vote to elect members of an assembly which will be tasked with rewriting the constitution.

Government officials and candidates for the Constituent Assembly were winding up campaigning on Thursday, with a rally in Caracas to be attended by Maduro.

The United States made a decision to target individuals for alleged human rights abuses, undermining democracy and corruption, while sparing the country for now from broader financial or "sectoral" sanctions against its vital oil industry - though such actions, the officials told Reuters, are still under consideration.

After the strike, the opposition has planned a demonstration for Friday billed as a "takeover of Caracas".

The U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the individuals targeted for sanctions were accused of supporting Maduro's crackdown, harming democratic institutions or victimizing Venezuelans through corruption, and that additional "bad actors" could be sanctioned later.

"Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are?"

The EU, UN and heavyweight nations in the Organization of American States have all also urged Maduro to drop his controversial plan.

A defiant Maduro hit back late on Wednesday, holding a campaign style rally where he presented some of those hit by USA sanctions with replicas of a sword belonging to Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Maduro accuses the USA of fomenting the unrest against him and his government, with the help of the conservative opposition.

But some 70 per cent of Venezuelans are opposed to the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.

"The government is only concerned with its own survival and does not yet appear to be convinced that the game is up and it needs to negotiate an exit strategy", Phillip Gunson, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Caracas, told dpa.

And with widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, more and more locals are either joining the strikes or crossing the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest. The four-year average for Venezuelan imports is up 7.6 percent from last year and, for the week ending July 14, was up 7 percent to 669,000 barrels per day.


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