The U.S. State Department has accused Venezuela’s socialist regime of instigating “another rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional order” after its illegal lawmaking body began proceedings to put its political opponents on trial for treason.
The accusation comes after dictator Nicolás Maduro’s recently formed “national constituent assembly” (ANC), an illegal lawmaking body comprised of Maduro allies, unanimously voted to put opposition leaders on trial for treason.
The assembly accused opposition leaders—including the head of the democratically-elected National Assembly, Julio Borges—of treason after they urged the United States to impose further sanctions against the Venezuelan regime.
During the session, constituent members charged opposition leaders with “engaging in the promotion of these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people.” The members also described the country’s former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, a former chavista loyalist, as “crawling like a worm” and “selling her homeland for a few dollars she stole from this country.”
Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning trade in Venezuelan debt or the sale of bonds from its state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), banning Americans from dealing with Venezuelan government debt or that of its state-run oil company.
The move followed personal sanctions placed on Maduro back in July, including a travel ban and the freezing of assets, after holding a fraudulent election to rewrite the country’s constitution and create a “constituent assembly.” The vote received an estimated turnout of under 15 percent and was also marred by violence after over a dozen people were killed.
“This injustice is only the latest in a sustained effort by the Maduro regime to undermine democracy, repress political dissent, and sow fear among its critics,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday. “It embodies yet another rupture in Venezuela’s constitutional order and defies the fact that in democracies, ideas and opinions are not crimes.”
Venezuela is also facing the worst humanitarian crisis in its history. Amid skyrocketing inflation, the country’s monthly minimum wage has fallen to under $6, while there are chronic shortages of basic resources such as food, medicine, electricity, and sanitary products.
As emigration to neighboring Colombia continues to increase, Colombian officials also confirmed last week that they were looking at refugee camps similar to those in the Middle East in preparation for an exodus of Venezuelan’s leaving the country.
Meanwhile, speaking to Venezuelans in Doral, South Florida, last week, Vice President Mike Pence promised the Trump administration would continue to act against the regime.
“Our resolve is unwavering; our conviction is clear,” Pence declared. “You may be assured: Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”
“We hear you, we stand with you. We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” he added.