Interview: Constituent assembly to shield Venezuela from U.S. sanctions, says top official

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-13 15:06:00|Editor: Zhou Xin
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by Pei Jianrong, Victoria Arguello

CARACAS, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elected to rewrite the consitution "will shield" the country from U.S. sanctions and threat of military intervention, ANC President Delcy Rodriguez told Xinhua in an interview.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for a constituent assembly in May to amend the constitution in a bid to overcome the political crisis that paralyzed the country.

Rodriguez said the ANC, which was elected at the end of July, is working to draft new laws that will minimize the impact of the sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Venezuela last month, which will prohibit dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company.

It was the latest round of sanctions slapped by the Trump administration on the South American country after the ANC elections.

Rodriguez said the sanctions also threatened to disrupt the country's sale of crude oil to the United States.

Moreover, Trump spoke of a "military option" against Venezuela as the crisis in the South American country escalated.

Maduro "clearly saw the external threats that today weigh heavily on Venezuela," Rodriguez said, adding "our constitutional framework and our legal framework must be shielded given the real and current threats that exist against Venezuela."

Rodriguez didn't offer details of the laws being drafted by the ANC, but said they fall within the decree approved by the body on Aug. 29 to reject the sanctions.

The ANC will bolster "the measures taken by the president to defend economic and financial sovereignty," she said, suggesting that Caracas will meet with holders of Venezuelan debt bonds in order to reach some kind of agreements.

"The constituent assembly will also meet with them. We are going to facilitate the entire procedure announced by President Maduro, which comprises anti-embargo measures that will have the support of the National Constituent Assembly," she said.

"The main holders of Venezuelan debt bonds are Americans, Canadians and British; (Trump) is harming those bond holders," said Rodriguez.

Washington's unilateral actions "are going to harm U.S. companies," she said.

Venezuela's business ties with the United States created jobs and contributed to social programs which are affected by the sanctions.

"Venezuela has refineries in the United States that provide jobs for Americans. Venezuela has refineries that also develop social programs for Americans, so both the people of the United States and the people of Venezuela are being directly harmed," said Rodriguez.

Since 2005, Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum Corporation in the U.S. state of Texas, which operates thousands of gas stations, has supplied low-income U.S. families with free fuel to heat their homes in winter, aiding more than 1.7 million U.S. residents across 25 states, Rodriguez said.

Should commercial ties between the two countries be severed, Rodriguez said "we have other markets where we can sell our oil."

Maduro last week submitted eight proposals to the ANC to bolster the economy, including an initiative to drop the U.S. dollar as the benchmark currency for international transactions, amid Washington's attempt to cut off the country's access to the U.S. currency.

The Venezuelan government said it will promote buy-sell contracts in different currencies, including the ruble, yen and rupee.

Tightening sanctions has only strengthened Venezuela's resolve to turn "to other parts of the world," said Rodriguez.