CARACAS, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The United States Wednesday announced sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan government officials to pressure their president Nicolas Maduro into halting his plan to rewrite the constitution.
The sanctions targeted leading ruling party figures to freeze their U.S. assets and banning Americans from doing business with them.
Maduro said his government does not "recognize any sanctions", adding that the officials singled out by Washington were "brave Venezuelans" who would instead be recognized for their service to the country.
He pledged to go ahead with the controversial National Constituent Assembly (ANC).
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 a 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.
The opposition has boycotted the vote, warning it is a power grab by Maduro but the president reckons it as the only way to peace after four months of street protests against his government in which more than 100 people have been killed.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to "take strong and swift economic actions" against Venezuela's government if Venezuela pursues the creation of the ANC.
According to a strongly worded statement released by the White House, Trump warned that if Maduro "imposes" the ANC on July 30, the United States 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."
The clash between the government and the opposition became a constitutional crisis since January 2016, when the latter won control of the National Assembly and ended a 17-year control by former president Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro.