Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed US sanctions imposed on him after the Sunday vote on a new assembly, saying Washington’s threats cannot intimidate him, and that he will not “listen to orders from the empire.”
Maduro made the remarks in a televised speech on Monday after the US Treasury Department targeted him with financial sanctions following the nationwide vote on the formation of the Constituent Assembly.
The 545-member body will have the power to dissolve the current opposition-led legislature and make reforms in the constitution.
Siding with the Venezuelan opposition, Trump had earlier said the he would not recognize the vote.
“They don’t intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don’t intimidate me for a moment,” Maduro said. “I will not obey imperial orders. I do not obey foreign governments. I’m a free president.”
Maduro said the sanctions were a sign of American “imperialism” and the US administration’s opposition to the will of all Venezuelans, adding that President Trump was “making the biggest mistake of his life in messing” with the South American nation.
“I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever … Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump,” he shouted to a gathering of supporters.
The US Treasury Department froze Maduro’s US assets and called him a “dictator” for pushing ahead with the election, which drew more than eight million people to the polls, the highest voter turnout in Venezuela’s history.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin further said those participating in the assembly could face “future US sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela.”
Along with the US, the European Union also criticized Venezuela’s planned formation of the new congress, saying, “A Constituent Assembly, elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances cannot be part of the solution. It has increased division and will further de-legitimize Venezuela’s democratically elected institutions.”
The bloc also censured Venezuela for the “excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces,” on the election day and called on both sides to refrain from violence.
Last week, the White House imposed sanctions against 13 current and former Venezuelan officials after doing the same to the country’s vice president in February.
The Sunday elections took place amid a wave of clashes and violence, with protesters attacking polling stations and barricading streets around the country.
The opposition, which had already boycotted the vote, rejected the election results as sham and called for further anti-government protests against the new assembly.
The unrest led to the engagement of anti-government protesters and security forces in street battles as voting was underway, leaving at least 10 people dead and bringing the death toll from four months of protest rallies to more than 120.
On Tuesday, Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes, where they were serving house arrest, their family members said.
The two had in recent days called on opposition supporters to attend anti-government protests.
Officials have not made any comments on the reports so far.
Cuba stands by Venezuela
Cuba, Venezuela’s key ally since the late 1990s, threw its full support behind the vote on the Constituent Assembly and expressed solidarity with the government in Caracas in the face of hostile US measures.
“Cuba denounces the initiation of a well-orchestrated international operation, directed in Washington … to silence the voice of the Venezuelan people,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state-run media.
The official statement said the US campaign against the vote seeks to “ignore the people’s will and impose surrender by means of attacks and economic sanctions.”
The Venezuelan people “defied violent street blockings, economic sabotage and international threats,” the ministry noted.
“We reiterate our unwavering solidarity with the Bolivarian and Chavez people and government and with its civic-military unity led by the constitutional president Nicolas Maduro,” it added.
This is while Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Canada and Peru have denounced the vote for the legislative superbody, claiming that it would destroy Venezuelan democracy and institutionalize autocracy there.
Maduro has on several occasions touted the planned rewriting of the constitution as necessary for resolving the widening political crisis in the impoverished but oil-rich country, saying that the reforms would help the nation through the current economic crisis.
He blames the crisis in the country on the United States, saying Washington has incited the opposition.