A member of the security forces stands guard at an electoral station during the simulation of the July 30 election for the National Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 16, 2017. (Xinhua/Boris Vergara)
WASHINGTON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday slapped sanctions on 13 current or former senior officials of the Venezuelan government amid political turmoil in the South American country.
The Venezuelan officials were blacklisted for their association with the election of the controversial National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and their government's "rampant violence against opposition protesters and its corruption," the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
As a result of the move, all assets of these individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with them.
The sanctions come ahead of the planned July 30 election of the ANC that the U.S. Treasury Department says "will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions."
"As our sanctions demonstrate, the United States is standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
"Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions," he added.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to "take strong and swift economic actions" against Venezuela's government if Venezuela goes ahead to pursue the creation of the ANC.
According to a strongly worded statement released by the White House, Trump warned that if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro "imposes" the ANC on July 30, the U.S. will "take strong and swift economic actions."
In response, the Venezuelan government rejected the U.S. pressure to cancel the constitutional initiative.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said, "it is not the first time we have denounced and confronted crazy threats such as those contained in this unusual document," and vowed to hold the vote as planned, despite this latest "brutal threat."
Venezuelans will go to the polls on July 30 to elect the 545 members of the ANC. The vote comes at a time of high tension in Venezuela, with the anti-government protests organized by the opposition, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), having led to more than 90 deaths since early April.