In an off-camera briefing Tuesday afternoon, senior administration officials discussed the crisis in Venezuela and potential sanctions on the regime.
In an effort to increase pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the White House announced it will impose “strong and swift economic sanctions” on the beleaguered nation if its leader creates a Constituent Assembly on July 30.
Senior officials explained Tuesday that the Assembly, which has the power to rewrite the constitution, would strip Venezuelans of their democratic rights and essentially transform Maduro’s “invalid and illegitimate” regime into a dictatorship.
While the White House announced it has been working with other nations to prevent the Assembly from occurring, the US will also take unilateral actions as it deems necessary. The President is considering all options, including sanctions on PDVSA, the state-run oil company.
These actions may come sooner than expected. One senior administration official said he “would not be surprised if we take actions before July 30.”
This announcement comes a day after President Trump stated that the “United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”
According to the Administration, ending the erosion of Venezuelan democracy and suffering of its people has been a priority of the President since taking office. President Trump, who has discussed this “man-made disaster” with over a dozen heads of state, believes it is in the national security interest of the US for the turmoil to end.
The Venezuelan crisis returned to the international forefront on Sunday, when over 7 million Venezuelans in many countries voted overwhelmingly against Maduro’s calls for a Constituent Assembly. In the opposition-run poll, roughly 98% of voters rejected the formation of the Assembly and supported holding a national election before 2019.
In response to the vote and probable sanctions, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada proclaimed on state television that nothing can stop the Assembly from taking place.
In the coming days, more anti-government protests are scheduled throughout Venezuela. Over 100 people have died in the protests to date. Human rights abuses, corruption, and narco trafficking continue to rise as most Venezuelans struggle to meet their basic human needs.