The opposition and a leading Venezuelan-Canadian activist are calling on the Liberal government to follow in the steps of the Trump administration and sanction top Venezuelan government officials ahead of a controversial election on Sunday that could turn President Nicolas Maduro's rule into a dictatorship.
From Friday, those taking part in rallies, demonstrations, marches that "could disturb or affect" the vote planned for Sunday would face between five and 10 years in prison, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said, reading a presidential decree. He said the office of Venezuela's chief prosecutor, who recently became one of Maduro's most outspoken critics, would be "turned upside down".
Several countries and global organizations, including the USA and European Union, have condemned the vote for Sunday.
Venezuela's chief prosecutor is reporting at least 114 deaths in almost four months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government. He said the constituent assembly lacks legitimacy and therefore, his county can not accept the result.
The sanctions noose could get tighter if Maduro pushes ahead with a vote on Sunday that would likely redraft the Venezuelan constitution in his favor.
Even though the Venezuelan government seized control of a General Motors (GM) plant in the country in April, forcing the automaker to pull the plug on its operations there, fellow automaker Toyota Motors (TM) also said it has no plans to exit the country. El Aissami is the most senior Venezuelan official ever targeted by the U.S.
The opposition fears that President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, would use the ANC to cling to power or impose one-party rule.
"On July 30, the constitutional assembly will happen", Maduro said Friday at a subsidized housing ceremony. Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society in Washington, said the vote will be the end of democracy in Venezuela.
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"Nobody wants to be the guy that raises gas prices, that's not good for elected people", says Russ Dallen, managing partner of Caracas Capital, a USA investing firm that doesn't own Venezuelan debt.
As of Friday, at least 113 people have died in protests and other incidents linked to the unrest, the attorney general's office has said, often without elaborating on who was responsible for their deaths.
The leaders of the bishops' conference also reminded the country's military, which has been accused of killing several protesters, that they are called to keep the peace and that their "first obligation is with the people".
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro branded U.S. sanctions levelled at his regime on Wednesday as "insolent", as pressure piled up on him overseas and at home over his controversial plan to elect a new body to rewrite the constitution.
Escalating tensions are the result of an upcoming vote on Sunday which could lead to Venezuela's constitution being re-written.
"We will spearhead a new stage where along with our citizens we do not abandon the street until we can restore democracy in Venezuela", he said this week.
Maduro is aligned with the political movement of Hugo Chavez, the President from 1999 until his death in 2013. If anything, the new entity nearly guarantees more tension and political duress.