American officials joined much of the world in swiftly condemning the Venezuelan election keeping strongman Nicolas Maduro in power as a “sham”, continuing to put pressure on Mr Maduro’s regime.
“Venezuela’s election was a sham - neither free nor fair. The illegitimate result of this fake process is a further blow to the proud democratic tradition of Venezuela”, vice president Mike Pence said in a statement.
Pointing to a mass exodus of Venezuelans who were “voting with their feet” in seeking to escape a collapsing economy and shortages of food and medicines, Mr Pence said “the United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues”.
After newly elevated secretary of state Mike Pompeo suggested America could impose fresh penalties in response to a “fraudulent election”, the White House announced Donald Trump had signed an order intended to bar Venezuelan officials from liquidating their assets in a “fire sale” - a move Mr Trump called the latest penalty “targeting the Maduro regime”.
“This money belongs to the Venezuelan people”, Mr Trump said in a statement. “We call for the Maduro regime to restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression and economic deprivation of the Venezuelan people”.
Even before the election took place, the US and other nations cautioned that the outcome would be predetermined. Arguing the regime had already rigged the result by muzzling political opponents and stacking key government bodies with allies, Mr Pence called on Venezuela earlier this month to suspend the upcoming vote and “hold real elections”.
Once the expected result was in, with Mr Maduro registering an overwhelming victory in a landslide affair, Latin American nations joined the US in dismissing the election as illegitimate. The “Lima group” of Latin American nations also refused to honour the results of the election and said member nations were downgrading their diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
“Taking into account the lack of legitimacy of the electoral process, we do not recognise the results”, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said, adding that the polling “excluded the participation of some political actors”.
Echoing that denunciation, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said on Twitter that the election “has not respected the most basic democratic standards” and warned that “Spain and its European partners will study appropriate measures” in response.
As life under Mr Maduro’s government has become increasingly marked by soaring prices and daily deprivation, the Trump administration has sought to squeeze the regime by clamping multiple rounds of sanctions on government officials. Earlier this year Mr Trump has referred to the situation in Venezuela as a “horror show”
In the weeks before the election the US imposed a fresh round of sanctions, saying the economic penalties sought to stifle a drug trafficking network that was overseen by regime officials. American officials have advocated regime change in Venezuela and have called on other Latin American nations to help isolate the Maduro government.
“We believe it is time to do more, much more,” Mr Pence said in an address to 35-member Organisation of American States in Washington this month. “Every free nation gathered here must take stronger action to stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors”.
Broadsides against American imperialism have been a common thread between Mr Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, and Mr Maduro earlier this month blasted the “regime of Donald Trump” for enacting “supremacist policies” and targeting Venezuela with “unilateral coercive measures”.
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