US issues new Venezuela-related sanctions over recent elections

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slams US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for ‘stupid’ sanctions.

A man stands at a voting booth at a polling station during parliamentary election in Caracas, Venezuela, December 6, 2020 [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

The United States has issued sanctions against two individuals and a company that it alleges played a role in “fraudulent elections” in Venezuela earlier this month, a move that was rejected by President Nicolas Maduro as “stupid”.

In a statement on Friday, the US Treasury Department said it had sanctioned Ex-Cle Soluciones Biometricas CA, a biometrics company, for providing material support to Maduro, “including by providing goods and services” to help carry out the parliamentary vote.

The department also sanctioned two individuals it alleged acted “for or on behalf of” Ex-Cle Soluciones Biometricas CA: dual Argentine and Italian national Guillermo Carlos San Agustin and Venezuelan Marcos Javier Machado Requena.

The sanctions block any assets they may have in the US, and prohibit US citizens from interacting with them.

Maduro’s political alliance overwhelmingly won the National Assembly elections, which were boycotted by Venezuela’s main opposition parties and criticised internationally for being fraudulent.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime’s efforts to steal elections in Venezuela show its disregard for the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in the statement announcing the sanctions.

“The United States remains committed to targeting the Maduro regime and those who support its aim to deny the Venezuelan people their right to free and fair elections.”

US President Donald Trump’s administration has for years heaped pressure on Maduro, issuing numerous rounds of sanctions that have crippled Venezuela’s economy and backing his main opponent, Juan Guaido, who has tried to overthrow Maduro.

Guaido, the outgoing National Assembly speaker, urged Venezuelans to boycott the December 6 elections, which he alleged were rigged to favour Maduro, and instead organised a “popular consultation” vote in protest.

Maduro rejected Friday’s US sanctions announcement and slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in particular.

“The disgraceful Mike Pompeo today put out some stupid sanctions, like the good imbecile that he is … against the company and businessmen that manufactured machines so that the Venezuelan people could vote,” Maduro said in a televised broadcast.

The Maduro-led political alliance won more than 90 percent of the seats in the legislature, which had been the last state institution not in the hands of the governing Socialist Party.

The Maduro government said 5.2 million Venezuelans or about 31 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the congressional vote.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies