The Trump administration is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after the vote Sunday that was a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.
In an unusual move against a foreign leader, the Treasury Department’s designation freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him. The measures were announced in a statement on the Treasury’s website on Monday.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” 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.”
An official from Venezuela’s Office of the President declined to comment and calls placed to the Information Ministry weren’t immediately returned.
The constituent assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who is still revered as the inspiration for the revolution that Maduro claims to lead. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.
Maduro has presided over an increasingly autocratic regime that has imperiled the country’s six-decade democracy and left the economy and society in shambles. The country has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis that has soldiers patrolling the streets and citizens stockpiling scarce food and water.
The U.S. had increased its pressure on Maduro’s government ahead of the vote, with President Donald Trump promising “strong and swift economic actions” if it took place.