Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro says he will not be intimidated by 'Emperor Donald Trump'

'I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump'

Michael Weissenstein
Caracas
,Fabiola Sanchez
Tuesday 01 August 2017 01:06
Comments
Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the imposition of sanctions on him personally by the US
Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the imposition of sanctions on him personally by the US

Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro, has dismissed US sanctions imposed on him by Donald Trump, saying he would not "listen to orders from the empire".

Washington added Mr Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions, escalating a tactic that has so far failed to alter his socialist government's behaviour.

For the moment the Trump administration did not deliver on threats to sanction Venezuela's oil industry, which could undermine Mr Maduro's government but raise US gas prices and deepen the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The sanctions came after electoral authorities said more than eight million people voted to create a constitutional assembly endowing Mr Maduro's ruling party with virtually unlimited powers — a turnout doubted by independent analysts while the election was labeled illegitimate by leaders across the Americans and Europe.

Mr Maduro said he had no intention of deviating from plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighbouring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls "Emperor Donald Trump".

"They don't intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment," Mr Maduro said on national television.

"I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump."

Venezuela's National Electoral Council said turnout in Sunday's vote was 41.53 per cent, or 8,089,320 people. The result would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013, despite a cratering economy, spiraling inflation, shortages of medicine and malnutrition.

Opinion polls had said some 85 per cent of Venezuelans disapproved of the constitutional assembly and similar numbers disapproved of Mr Maduro's overall performance.

Opposition leaders estimated the real turnout at less than half the government's claim in a vote watched by government-allied observers but no internationally recognised poll monitors.

An exit poll based on surveys from 110 voting centres by New York investment bank Torino Capital and a Venezuela public opinion company estimated 3.6 million people voted, or about 18.5 per cent of registered voters.

The electoral council's vote counts in the past had been seen as reliable and generally accurate, but the widely mocked announcement appeared certain to escalate the polarisation and political conflict paralysing the country.

"If it wasn't a tragedy ... if it didn't mean more crisis, the electoral council's number would almost make you laugh," opposition leader Freddy Guevara said on Twitter. Mr Maduro has threatened that one of the constitutional assembly's first acts would be jailing Mr Guevara for inciting violence.

The constituent assembly will have the task of rewriting the country's constitution and will have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

Mr Maduro has said the new assembly will begin to govern within a week. Among other measures, he said he would use the assembly's powers to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities that have generated four months of protests that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.

Along with the US, the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticised Sunday's vote. Mr Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others.

The monetary impact of the new US sanctions wasn't immediately clear as Mr Maduro's holdings in US jurisdictions, if he has any, weren't publicised. However, imposing sanctions on a head of state is rare and can be symbolically powerful, leading other countries to similarly shun such a leader. For example, the US has had sanctions against Syria's President Bashar Assad since 2011. Other heads of state currently subject to US sanctions include Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Associated Press

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