US sanctions 8 more Venezuelan officials after constituent assembly declares its supremacy

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela December 17, 2016. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS (Copyright Reuters 2016)

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against 8 new individuals in Venezuela on Wednesday over their involvement in the creation of the country’s National Constituent Assembly.

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Seven of the designated individuals are current or former senior Venezuelan officials and one was otherwise identified by the United States as undermining democracy in the country. Six of the sanctioned Venezuelans played a significant role in organizing or creating the National Constituent Assembly. The brother of socialist leader Hugo Chavez is among the sanctioned officials.

“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 in a statement on Wednesday.  “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.”

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On Tuesday, the new national assembly, which has the power to rewrite the country’s constitution, declared itself superior to all other branches of government. That means opposition groups are prohibited from acting in a way that interferes with laws it passes.

In the run up to the Venezuelan election of the National Constituent Assembly, orchestrated by President Nicolas Maduro, the Trump administration warned it would take “swift” economic action in reaction to what it views as a subversion of democracy in the country. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also reiterated the White House’s stance that anyone elected to, or associated with, the National Constituent Assembly could be at risk of being sanctioned.

The U.S. Treasury has already sanctioned 13 current and former Venezuelan officials and on July 31, it designated Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pursuant to the same executive order.

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