USA sanctions eight more Venezuelan officials, including Chavez brother

USA sanctions eight more Venezuelan officials, including Chavez brother”

Argentine football hero Diego Maradona defended Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday over a deadly political crisis in which the socialist leader's opponents have branded him a dictator.

If anyone had been uncertain that Venezuela was sliding towards dictatorship they would have been forced to relinquish all doubt that this was in fact happening after the installation, last week, of a Constituent Assembly and the actions of that body sanctioned by President Nicolas Maduro.

The constitutional assembly is also moving ahead to set up what it calls a "truth commission", which Mr Maduro has said will have the right "to try anyone". Thousands have been injured, while thousands of other protesters have been arrested by the police.

Despite nearly daily protests since early April, in which more than 120 people have died, he has refused to step down.

The move took members of the opposition-led national assembly by surprise who were prevented from entering the building.

The unrest has focused worldwide attention on Venezuela's appalling economic fundamentals, which have been destroyed by years of erratic management by Maduro and his predecessor, the late socialist icon Hugo Chavez. Those sanctions followed a previous round, days before the planned vote, that hit 13 current or former top officials in Maduro's government.

The Trump administration just got a little tougher on Venezuela's increasingly authoritarian regime. Key Latin American countries declared they did not recognize the vote for a Constituent Assembly initiated by Maduro.

The July 30 election of the Constituent Assembly was marred by street violence, in which 10 people died, and charges of fraud brought by the UK-based company that supplied the polling technology.

The ultimate goal of that blockade is to trigger a default of Venezuela's economy, Maduro argued, adding that the United States attempted to do the same thing in 2015 and 2016, with no success. It said it was unclear who the perpetrators of the other deaths were. A recent analysis by Wells Fargo Securities concluded that one impact would be to raise foreign heavy crude prices by about $3.50 a barrel.

General view of the second plenary session of the body in Caracas, Venezuela, 08 August 2017.

Major Latin American nations have rejected the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly, and South American nations have indefinitely suspended Venezuela from the Mercosur trading bloc for breaking "democratic order".

But, in the statement, they had noted that they were concerned about the "difficult political, economic and social situation in Venezuela, in particular the increase in violence and polarisation between the Government and the Opposition, and its effect on the people of Venezuela".

On Saturday the assembly removed dissident chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega from office and ordered her to stand trial.

Before the assembly met, Venezuela's pro-government Supreme Court sentenced a Caracas-area mayor at the center of recent protests to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up during anti-government demonstrations.

And U.S. sanctions against Maduro haven't stopped his agenda of consolidating power.

The three other state leaders under U.S. sanctions are Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

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