Treasury Dept. Slaps New Sanctions on Venezuela Targeting Key Officials

Venezuela's Maduro slams 'insolent' US sanctions

A defiant Maduro hit back late on Wednesday, holding a campaign style rally where he presented some of those hit by USA sanctions with replicas of a sword belonging to Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Highways were mostly empty, and businesses shuttered across the country as millions of people observed the protest.

Meanwhile, the United States announced new sanctions Wednesday against 13 individuals connected to the Venezuelan government and state oil company, in an further effort to pressure Maduro to call off Sunday's vote.

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro at home and overseas tried again Wednesday to pressure the socialist leader into halting his plans to rewrite Venezuela's constitution, though there was no public sign their efforts were working.

The sanctions come ahead of the planned July 30 election of the ANC that the U.S. Treasury Department says "will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions".

An average of 78 people a day died violently previous year in this country of 31.5 million, according the non-governmental Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro rejected U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Wednesday against 13 current and former officials in the country, defining them as "illegal".

Almagro this week appointed Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former International Criminal Court prosecutor, to investigate crimes against humanity in Venezuela and to develop suggested OAS action to address the situation.

Since Wednesday, thousands of people have turned out to hear the speeches before the election called by President Nicolas Maduro to arrive at a peaceful solution through dialogue to the current political situation in the country.

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As The Two-Way's Camila Domonoske reported last week, "Venezuela is one of the largest foreign suppliers of oil to the USA, accounting for almost 10 percent of total imports".

Over the past couple of years the escalating crises in what once was the richest South American country has led to steep deterioration of public health with infectious diseases such as malaria creeping back.

He also called the sanctions "illegal, insolent and unprecedented".

Venezuela is days away from starting the process of rewriting its constitution by electing members of a Constituent Assembly, which will override the current opposition-led legislature. And under no circumstance should the United States intervene directly against Maduro's government. "The government of the world?"

Maduro blames his country's woes on the United States.

Venezuela's currency reserves have dwindled to under Dollars 10 billion as the government keeps up debt repayments at the expense of imports to stave off a crippling default.

"The government has to stop its plan for a constituent assembly", Venezuela's Union leader Aldo Torres said. All of this happening, as violent clashes break out at the start of a 48-hour nationwide strike. Another major opposition demonstration is expected to be held in the capital on Friday.

Some 70% of Venezuelans are opposed to Maduro's plan for a Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.

And with widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, more and more locals are either joining the strikes or crossing the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

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