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United States government freezes assets of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro

United States government freezes assets of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro

Lopez was detained three years ago after protests against Maduro's government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison on charges that include inciting protesters to violence.

But speaking in Caracas, Maduro said he was not scared of Trump and decried his sanctions decision as an act of "desperation" and "impotence".

Allies of former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma posted video online of a man who appeared to be the opposition leader being taken by state security as a woman screams for help for neighbours.

"President Trump congratulated President Erdogan on that and he even later came to the USA and his people beat protesters in front of his embassy", the journalist said, referring to a brutal crackdown of anti-Erdogan protesters by the Turkish president's bodyguards in Washington, DC, on May 17. "Sanction me as you wish, but the Venezuelan people have chose to be free and I am the independent president of a free nation".

Boycotted by the opposition, and voted for largely by state employees fearful for their jobs, the Constituent Assembly was made up exclusively of members of Maduro's ruling Socialist Party.

"I don't obey orders from foreign governments and never will..."

Pineda was on a ticket to become part of Venezuela's potential new constitutional assembly, which would be tasked with rewriting the country's constitution.

Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were both under house arrest, the former for his role in leading street protests against Maduro in 2014 and the latter on charges of plotting a coup. The Trump administration again promised "strong and swift actions" against Venezuelan officials, including the 545 participants in the constitutional assembly, many of them low-ranking party members.

Venezuela's attorney general, Luisa Ortega, a vocal critic of the Maduro government, called the vote an expression of "dictatorial ambition".

National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced just before midnight that turnout in Sunday's vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people. However, imposing sanctions on a head of state is rare and can be symbolically powerful, leading other countries to similarly shun such a leader.

"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.

Nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Britain and the United States said they would not recognise Sunday's vote. 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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