The United States condemned what senior administration officials called the “fraudulent election” of dictator Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela on Sunday, adding additional sanctions against the government in an executive order issued Monday.
“We do not recognize the electoral process as being legitimate,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Monday briefing call. The official called the election a “culmination of an illegitimate process years in the making,” a choreographed process reflective of an unpopular regime that could not handle competition. The Maduro regime has manipulated the courts, electoral council, silenced dissenting voices, banned opposition from participating, held political prisoners, and manipulated the media to the favor of Maduro.
On the day of the election, the regime parceled out food to further manipulate the electorate, the official recounted. “The Maduro regime uses hunger as a weapon,” said the official. Citizens scanned government-issued cards to show that they have voted, then received food or money as a reward. This is a tactic reportedly used for several election cycles. The official said that there have been multiple reports that neighborhoods who do not vote for Maduro have had their access to subsidized food benefits cut.
The official continued:
Maduro and his regime have devastated Venezuela’s economy and its democracy. It’s failed to defend the Venezuelan people’s right to democracy as reflected in inter-American democratic charter. The regime bears the responsibility for the suffering of the Venezuelan people. The United States will continue to stand with democratic nations in support of the Venezuelan people and take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy.
Monday’s executive order acts in coordination with the declaration from the 14-nation Lima Group, comprised of free countries in the Americas that stand in opposition to the Maduro regime. The group condemned the Maduro regime as corrupt, placing responsibility with that regime for the suffering of the Venezuelan people through prioritizing the regime’s enrichment while refusing outside aid to the Venezuelan people.
The executive order, the administration explained, is intended to close another “avenue for corruption” by preventing improper valuing or selling off of “public assets in return for kickbacks.”
It prohibits “all transactions related to the purchase of any debt owed to the government of Venezuela, and this includes accounts receivable by any U.S. person or anyone within the United States.” It further prohibits “all transactions related to debt owed to the government of Venezuela that is pledged as collateral after the executive order’s date, which is today.”
It also bans “all transactions related to the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the government of Venezuela of any equity in any entity which has a 15 percent or greater ownership interest.”
Monday’s executive order builds on the financial restrictions of orders 13808 and 13827. They also build on sanctions placed last Friday on four Venezuelan officials for corruption and narcotics trafficking. The U.S. is now blocking money to Venezuela into the tens of millions and rising.
The official said the new order was:
…designed to further thwart the regime’s efforts to mortgage away the future of the Venezuelan people by accumulating onerous debt, liquidating state assets for pennies on the dollar, and its designed to close important avenues for … finance and corruption and … multifaceted efforts to circumvent existing financial sanctions.
The members of the 14-country Lima group recalled their ambassadors from Venezuela on Sunday over what they called an illegitimate election.
Vice President Mike Pence called the election “a sham – neither free nor fair” and said the “United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues.” Pence declared that “America stands against dictatorship and with the people of Venezuela.” He called on the Maduro regime to allow humanitarian aid into the country and “allow its people to be heard.”
“We’ve never seen a country as wealthy in terms of natural resources and human capital as Venezuela is driven into such an economic death spiral so quickly by such a small group of individuals determined to enrich themselves at the expense of millions of people,” said the administration official. “The humanitarian suffering in this country is on a scale that we really don’t see in other places.” The official stressed the massive scale of migrants leaving the country and especially the weight of increased economic burden on neighboring countries, especially Columbia.
Monday afternoon, President Trump issued a statement on the Maduro regime and the new executive order.
“Today, I have taken action to prevent the Maduro regime from conducting ‘fire sales,’ liquidating Venezuela’s critical assets—assets the country will need to rebuild its economy,” the president said. “This money belongs to the Venezuelan people.”
Trump stated that he signed the order to prevent the regime from making money off of the sale of certain entities. He expressed support for the people of Venezuela who have suffered under Maduro. “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,” said Trump. “This order is the most recent in a strong, consistent stream of actions my Administration has taken targeting the Maduro regime.”
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