White House Compares Venezuelan President to Assad, Kim Jung Un

Posted August 02, 2017

Venezuelan opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes by intelligence agents in the early hours of Tuesday morning, in the wake of the controversial assembly vote that Nicolas Maduro said would open "a new phase of combat" in the country's revolution.

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori tweeted: "They just took Leopoldo from the house".

Experts say Venezuela's deep polarization could lead to two camps both claiming to be the legitimate government of the country - one with global support, the other with Venezuela's military behind it. "They take penalties that they enjoy, but the venezuelan people made a decision to be free", added Maduro.

Ledezma's children denounced the arrest on Twitter and appealed to the worldwide community for help. A little less than a month ago we saw a small but hopeful sign of possible reform on Maduro's part when he released opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison after years of confinement. He had been convicted of instigating violence during protests against Maduro in 2014 that left 43 people dead.

Antonio Ledezma was granted house arrest in 2015 after being imprisoned on charges of leading a coup against Maduro.

"After Sunday, it won't be easy for us", he said.

Maduro, who succeeded Chavez upon his death in 2013, has faced protests for several months, centring on the collapse of Venezuela's economy and his perceived authoritarian policies.

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people", Mnuchin said in a statement. The next one is scheduled for 2018.

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Tasked with writing a new constitution, it has far-reaching powers―including the right to dissolve the National Assembly and change laws. Many speculate they will choose Diosdado Cabello, the hard-line leader of the ruling socialist party, as their chairman. The opposition has called a big rally for that day.

During the announcement, McMaster took things a step further by placing Maduro among the world's most vicious leaders and compared him to North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Syria's Bashir al Assad. The U.S. has estimated Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who was sanctioned as a drug kingpin in February, has foreign assets of roughly $500 million.

Maduro lashed out at the move, saying it smacked of American imperialism.

Venezuela remains under political unrest in the aftermath of a widely disputed election for a new Constituent Assembly that will replace the democratically elected members of the country's opposition-dominated legislature.

"Maduro is responsible if something happens to him", she wrote. Mr. Trump condemned the Maduro regime's refusal to heed the Venezueulan constitution by carrying out a "sham election".

The National Electoral Council claimed more than 40% of Venezuela's 20 million voters had cast ballots Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: "A Constituent Assembly, elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances, can not be part of the solution". Soaring inflation as a result of government price controls has created mass shortages of food and medicine.