The Trump administration Monday labeled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a “dictator” and hit him with financial sanctions after an allegedly rigged election gave his government sweeping new powers.
The Treasury took the unusual step of applying the sanctions to the president of a country, freezing Mr. Maduro’s assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons form doing business with him.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called the vote Sunday in Venezuela a “sham election” and a “very serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere.”
“He’s not just a bad leader, he is now a dictator,” Mr. McMaster said. “The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of this oppression.”
The election touched off a new round of street violence in protest against Mr. Maduro that left at least 10 people dead. The protests and violence have killed about 120 people in the past four months in economically crippled Venezuela, an oil-rich country that has defended into poverty and chaos under the corruption and mismanagement of far-left leaders.
Mr. Maduro said the newly created constituent assembly would help bring peace to the country. Critics said it guaranteed the Mr. Maduro’s Socialist Party would have a stranglehold on power and create a Castro-like communist rule in Venezuela.
The Trump administration is working with other counties in the region to further isolate the Maduro regime.
Earlier, Mr. Maduro mocked the opposition from President Trump.
“A spokesperson for emperor Donald Trump said that they would not recognize the results of Venezuela’s constituent assembly election,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters following the completion of the vote.
“Why the hell should we care what Trump says?” Mr. Maduro said. “We care about what the sovereign people of Venezuela say.”