UPDATE: Trump tightens Venezuela financial sanctions after 'sham' vote

Monday, May 21, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — President Donald Trump on Monday tightened financial sanctions against Venezuela following what the US called a "sham" election, making it harder for the government to sell off state assets.

Hours after Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in an election plagued by irregularities and boycotted by the opposition, Trump signed an executive order further tightening financial pressure on the regime.

The White House said the executive order complicates Venezuela's efforts to sell off financial IOUs known as "accounts receivable."

Senior US administration officials said the instruments had been used to garner much-needed revenue for the cash-starved regime, but declined to provide more substantive details.

The financial response to the vote was accompanied by diplomatic efforts to further isolate Caracas.

US Vice President Mike Pence decried the election as "a sham – neither free nor fair. The illegitimate result of this fake process is a further blow to the proud democratic tradition of Venezuela."

"The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues," Pence said in a statement.

Venezuela is already deep in the worst economic crisis of its history, with its people enduring food and medicine shortages that have sparked violent unrest and a mass exodus by hundreds of thousands of people.

Election officials said Maduro won 68 per cent of the votes cast in Sunday's presidential poll, far ahead of the 21 per cent won by his nearest rival, ex-army officer Henri Falcon.

But the vote was marred by a 52 per cent abstention rate – a historic high – following a boycott called by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition, which slammed the ballot as a "farce."

Even before it took place, Canada, the European Union, the United States and a dozen Latin American countries said they would not recognise the results.

"Until the Maduro regime restores a democratic path in Venezuela through free, fair and transparent elections, the government faces isolation from the international community," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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