U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has imposed sanctions on eight more Venezuelan officials in retaliation for helping to create a new legislative body that is expanding the power of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The sanctions were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Treasury Department. They will freeze the U.S. assets of the targeted officials, including the brother of deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The sanctions will also prohibit the Venezuelan officials from traveling to the United States and ban Americans from conducting business with them.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Venezuela's "illegitimate" body serves to tighten Maduro's "grip on the country." "This regime's disregard for the will of the Venezuelan people is unacceptable, and the United States will stand with them in opposition to tyranny until Venezuela is restored to a peaceful and prosperous democracy," Mnuchin said.
The new sanctions came after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Maduro himself last week and on 13 Venezuelan officials on July 26. Critics of Maduro inside and outside Venezuela have condemned the 545-member assembly as an attempt to eliminate any remaining checks on Maduro's power. The constituent assembly has the authority to rewrite the constitution and empower Maduro to rule by proclamation.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, who is hiding from authorities for allowing anti-government protests in his district, has urged citizens to keep resisting the Maduro government. Ramon Muchacho delivered the message in a video recorded at a secret location after Maduro's Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 months in prison for defying orders to stop the protesters from blocking traffic.
Muchacho was the fourth Venezuelan mayor to be charged in the last 15 days for not stopping protesters from disrupting traffic in their jurisdictions. A fifth mayor was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.