In an unusual move, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it is imposing sanctions, directly on Venezuela's democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro as it increases pressure on the Venezuelan government.
Over 8 million people voted in Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly election Sunday — a turnout of over 41 percent, according to electoral authorities — to choose from 6,120 candidates for the 545-member ANC in a mass display of support for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
"Anyone who participates in this illegitimate ANC could be exposed to future U.S. sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela," said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.
"By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy," he added.
In a short news briefing, Mnuchin had no comment on questions posed on whether the United States communicated with Maduro prior to announcing the sanctions or whether further economic sanctions on the oil trade were in the pipeline, only saying that the administration continues to review all of its options and work with allied countries in the region.
The announcement was followed by a press briefing where White House officials painted a highly inaccurate picture of the democratic process leading up to the drafting of a new constitution.
"Maduro is not just a bad leader. He is now a dictator," national security adviser H.R. McMaster said. "Recent actions culminating in yesterday's seizure of absolute power through the sham election of the National Constituent Assembly represent a very serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere."
As with its sanctions against 13 high-level government officials last week, all of Maduro's assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now frozen and people from the U.S. are prohibited from dealing with the head of state.
"The U.S. government and democratic governments worldwide continue to call on the Venezuelan government to halt the ANC process ... We urge those who were elected to the Constituent Assembly to decline to take office," the statement concluded.