Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro declared victory following Sunday’s National Constituent Assembly election, culminating a chaotic run-up to what was largely viewed as a sham election meant only to consolidate powers with Maduro, now a de facto dictator in the eyes of the opposition and the United States.

Speaking at a White House press briefing on Monday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said “Maduro is not just a bad leader, he is now a dictator,” and “the President promised strong and swift actions if the regime went forward with imposing the National Constituent Assembly on the Venezuelan people, and he will keep that promise.”

In the same briefing, fresh sanctions were announced on Maduro directly.

Venezuela was rocked by protests and violence in the days leading up to Sunday’s vote, to include the shooting death of Jose Felix Pineda, a candidate in the National Constitute Assembly, as well as 10 others killed in protests against the regime. The election was wildly unpopular among Venezuelans, with most citizens viewing their vote as meaningless in a rigged system. Maduro is expected to pack the assembly with constituents handpicked by the regime to do their bidding, to include his own wife and son.

Maduro has said the new constituent assembly was necessary to re-write the constitution to better address the ongoing financial crisis and widespread food shortage. The opposition, to include the United States and European Union, see it as an assault on democracy. The regime’s claim that over 8 million Venezuelans turned out to vote is disputed by the opposition, who says only around 2.5 million voters participated, according to Reuters. Protests in Venezuela have been ongoing for months.

The sanctions on Maduro freeze his assets and prohibit Americans from conducting business with him, but stopped short of affecting Venezuela’s vast oil industry, which would cause global fuel prices to jump. Venezuela is the United States’ third-largest supplier of oil.

Image courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov

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