WASHINGTON, United States, Friday August 11, 2017 – Days after imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, the United States has slapped sanctions on eight more of that Spanish-speaking country’s citizens, including the brother of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, for helping Maduro form a controversial new Constituent Assembly last month. And the Venezuelan Government has hit back, accusing the US of breaking international law.
The measures announced by the US Treasury Department against seven current and former officials of the Venezuelan government and one individual who “participated in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Venezuela”, will freeze their US assets, ban them from travel to the US and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
Washington imposed sanctions on Maduro last week, following similar action against 13 Venezuelan figures on July 26.
The US said the sanctions on the eight are punishment for their involvement in what it said was a sham election to form the new legislative super body that will draft a new constitution, and which earlier this week approved a decree that obliges other government bodies to recognize its wide-ranging powers and adhere to its decisions. That order also prohibits the opposition-held National Assembly and other government bodies from taking any action that would interfere with the constituent assembly’s laws.
The US Treasury said the Constituent Assembly was created through an undemocratic process instigated by Maduro’s government “to subvert the will of the Venezuelan people”. The assembly was sworn in on August 4 and, in its first session on August 5, ousted Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Diaz, who had ordered an investigation into the possible election fraud.
“President Maduro swore in this illegitimate Constituent Assembly to further entrench his dictatorship, and continues to tighten his grip on the country,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “This regime’s disregard for the will of the Venezuelan people is unacceptable, and the United States will stand with them in opposition to tyranny until Venezuela is restored to a peaceful and prosperous democracy.”
The eight who are facing sanctions are: brother of late president Chavez, Adan Coromoto Chavez Frias – a former Minister of Culture and who was appointed the Secretary of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly; Francisco Jose Ameliach Orta, a member of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly; former Minister of Urban Agriculture Erika del Valle Farias Pena; former Sectoral Vice President of Political Sovereignty, Security, and Peace Carmen Teresa Melendez; Ramon Dario Vivas Velasco a former National Assembly Deputy for Vargas State; Hermann Eduardo Escarra Malave was appointed a member of the Presidential Commission for the Assembly; Tania D’Amelio Cardiet, a rector of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council; and Bladimir Humberto Lugo Armas, the Commander of the Special Unit to the Federal Legislative Palace of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard.
The Treasury Department said D’Amelio Cardiet has publicly defended the Constituent Assembly and is believed to be among those who the former Attorney General began to investigate for possible election fraud.
The Venezuela government has described the development as a new attack against Venezuelan democracy.
In a statement issued via the Venezuelan Embassy in Barbados, it said the sanctions were unilateral, illegal and violate international law”, and the individuals being targeted were being subjected to a “criminalization attempt for their participation in a democratic, constitutional process that is the result of the sovereign will of the Venezuelan people”.
“The US Government once again shows it bears little interest for democracy and people’s self-determination, as well as for the respect of human rights, especially the right to vote and to the observation of the decisions of the people,” it added.
“The United States of America intends to punish Venezuelan citizens for simply having promoted the National Constituent Assembly, as well as for having been elected, thus formalizing the political persecution of those defending the democratic process in Venezuela.”