DemoAnstrators holding candles and shouting (© AP Images)
Demonstrators in Venezuela hold candles in honor of those killed during clashes with the government. (© AP Images)

Nations around the world condemned the July 30 elections called by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that will ultimately rewrite Venezuela’s constitution, giving Maduro sweeping new powers.

The “illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a July 31 White House press briefing announcing that the U.S. had imposed financial sanctions on Maduro.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by officials around the world:

  • Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro called the elections “absolutely void.” He said they were “carried out by massacring the basic principles of transparency, neutrality and universality that should characterize free and fair elections.” The organization represents 35 independent states of the Americas.
  • Canada likewise denounced the July 30 vote. “This constituent assembly will further escalate tensions in the country by robbing the Venezuelan people of their fundamental democratic rights,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.
  • Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom warned that Venezuela “stands on the brink of disaster, and Maduro’s government must stop before it is too late.”
  • Meanwhile in Germany, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it did not regard the constituent assembly as a suitable means to lead Venezuela out of its economic and social crisis.

U.S. signals support for Venezuelan people

On July 16, millions of Venezuelans voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s proposal to establish a constituent assembly.

President Trump said on July 17 that “Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”

The president vowed the U.S. would take swift economic action if the Maduro government imposed its constituent assembly on July 30, which it did.

As a result of the U.S. sanctions, all assets of Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him.

Two men standing behind lectern (© AP Images)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster speak on Venezuela. (© AP Images)

Mnuchin said the administration hopes these sanctions will make all Maduro regime officials reconsider how their actions have affected their country. “These sanctions highlight the high costs and personal repercussions that enablers of this regime could face if they continue their reckless and undemocratic activities,” he said.

The treasury secretary said anyone who participated in the illegitimate constituent assembly “could be exposed to future U.S. sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela.”

A call to release political prisoners

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on August 1 raised “deep concern” over the Venezuelan government’s decision to return opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma to prison. “We call for their immediate release,” he said.

Their arrest came two days after the July 30 election, which the secretary called “illegitimate.” He said it provoked even more violence in that country.

“The United States is concerned about grave human rights abuses,” Tillerson said, urging “the re-establishment of democracy in Venezuela.”