New sanctions on Venezuela as 48-hour strike begins

World Today

Anti-government demonstrator eye Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard officers on the first day of a 48-hour general strike in protest of government plans to rewrite the constitution, in the Bello Campo neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. President Nicolas Maduro is promoting the constitution rewrite as a means of resolving Venezuela’s political standoff and economic crisis, but opposition leaders are boycotting it. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The Venezuelan government gets more international criticism. The U.S. announced new sanctions on senior Venezuelan government officials. All of this happening, as violent clashes break out at the start of a 48-hour nationwide strike.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Llamas reports from Caracas.

The U.S. said the sanctions are part of the plan to put pressure on the Venezuelan president to cancel this weekend’s controversial election for a new congress to rewrite the country’s constitution.

Clashes broke out in Venezuela today, on the first day of a two-day strike. This is the latest in months of organized opposition protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to convene a constituent assembly.

“The government has to stop its plan for a constituent assembly,” Venezuela’s Union leader Aldo Torres said. “We are against the constituent assembly because it is illegal and fraudulent and the only thing it will bring is more problems to our country, and worse conditions to all the workers.”

In the capital, Caracas buses are not running and blockades have made it impossible for cars to move inside most of the city barricades made from garbage, tree branches and furniture.

“Living in Venezuela is a daily challenge because instead of thinking about going to the beach over the weekend, I must think about what will happen, if someone close to me will die in the protests and if I will have money to buy food,” Maria Venegas who works as a teacher in Venezuela said.

The constituent assembly would be authorized to rewrite the constitution but opposition supporters said that’s just a diversion from the real problems facing Venezuela.

“We need a channel of humanitarian aid since our patients are dying of the most basic diseases,” Dr. Rebeca Sau in Venezuela said.

President Maduro said no matter how many people take part in protests against the election, he will move forward with his plans to create a constituent assembly, which for him will restore peace to Venezuela.

The president also denounced the new sanctions placed by the U.S. The U.S. government on Wednesday announced it is imposing sanctions against 13 current or former Venezuelan officials, including people from the government, military and state oil company. The U.S. says those sanctions are placed to pressure President Maduro to halt efforts to rewrite the country’s constitution.

This 48- hour general strike will continue on Thursday, followed by a planned opposition demonstration on Friday in the run-up to the elections scheduled for Sunday.