Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela’s all-powerful Constituent Assembly on Tuesday elected Diosdado Cabello as its new president, a month after he was slapped with US sanctions.
Cabello, deputy leader of the ruling Socialist Party, was elected by a show of hands of the 545-member Assembly and replaces Delcy Rodriguez, a former foreign minister who President Nicolas Maduro last week appointed as his vice-president.
Rodriguez had headed the all-powerful, pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly since its inception in 2017.
“I swear I will do what I have to to defend the Constitution….I swear I will accompany our beloved brother President Nicolas Maduro in constructing Bolivarian socialism,” Cabello said as he was sworn-in.
A former speaker of parliament, Cabello was targeted by US sanctions along with his wife and brother.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who announced the sanctions on May 18, said “figures like Diosdado Cabello….exploit their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds and other corrupt activities.”
The US Treasury also accused Cabello of working with other blacklisted individuals to move narcotics from Venezuela to Europe via the Dominican Republic, while moving cash back to Venezuela, as well as to Panama and the Bahamas.
Swiss and EU authorities had already blacklisted Cabello earlier this year, citing grave human rights abuses.
The 2017 vote to elect the Constituent Assembly was boycotted by Venezuela’s opposition and not recognized by much of the international community, as it effectively usurped the powers of the opposition-dominated parliament.