Venezuelan Leader Defiant as US Imposes Sanctions on Him

People wait to cast their vote at a polling station during the Constituent Assembly election in Caracas Venezuela

Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma were under house arrest after allegedly inciting violence during protests against the government in 2014 in which three people died. As and when the Labour Party re-admit him when his suspension period is up, we'll know if they agree.

"12:27 in the morning: the moment when the dictatorship kidnaps Leopoldo at my house", Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori tweeted, posting a video that appeared to show him being led into a vehicle emblazoned with the word Sebin, Venezuela's intelligence agency.

"They're taking Ledezma!" she cries.

The constituent assembly itself has come under fire because it was created to rewrite the constitution and possibly supplant the opposition-led congress, whose members were elected in a conventional election in December 2015. But experts say individual sanctions, while providing strong symbolism, have had little or no impact on Maduro's policies and that broader oil-sector and financial sanctions may be the only way to make the Venezuelan government feel economic pain.

Venezuela has been riven by unrest since the country's Supreme Court, which is packed with Maduro supporters, attempted to dissolve the legislature in late March - and quickly reversed itself just days later after global backlash. That would include Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, and powerful congressman Diosdado Cabello, as well as lowly socialist party members with no USA finances. "The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment", Maduro said on national television. I don't deserve imperialist orders.

"The National Constituent Assembly aspires illegitimately to usurp the constitutional role of democratically elected National Assembly, rewrite the constitution and impose an authoritarian regime on the people", he said. Electoral officials said the turnout was 41.5%.

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"Nobody recognizes that (constituent) assembly, it's the epitome of nothing", said legislator Juan Requesens in an internet broadcast as he entered Congress for a meeting with opposition deputies.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called the vote a "sham election" that brought Venezuela "another step toward dictatorship".

Nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Britain and the United States said they would not recognise Sunday's vote. "Here are your sanctions at himself, Donald trump!"

Maduro's new constituent assembly will have the power to change the country's constitution, with critics fearing it will change the rules to cement the Socialist government's power. However, imposing sanctions on a head of state is rare and can be symbolically powerful, leading other countries to similarly shun such a leader.

A banner that reads "Maduro, this is not Cuba!" Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela's inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.

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