Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Venezuela's Maduro says ready for talks with Trump

Venezuela's Maduro says ready for talks with Trump

They added to previous U.S. sanctions on Maduro himself - a rare step against a sitting head of state - imposed just before the assembly was elected on July 30 in a vote marred by violence, fraud allegations and an opposition boycott.

It followed up this week with more sanctions against several members of the assembly.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said he wants a personal chat with US President Donald Trump, who imposed sanctions on him on grounds that he has undermined democracy. David Smolansky, the opposition mayor of the Caracas suburb of El Hatillo, was given a sentence of 15 months by the country's supreme court, bringing to 23 the number of mayors targeted by legal action.

Trump has routinely accused Maduro of dictatorship after his decision to create a 545-seat legislative suberbody with a power to rewrite the constitution.

The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals may have in the United States and prevent Americans from doing business with the Venezuelans.

The assembly has also fired the attorney general, Luisa Ortega, who broke ranks to become an outspoken critic of the president.

Both Smolansky and Muchacho were barred from holding public office.

Venezuela has come under fire for using excess force against demonstrators during four months of anti-government protests by citizens outraged over rampant inflation and shortages of food and medicine. On Thursday a group calling itself The Binary Guardians claimed responsibility for a massive cyberattack that cut mobile telephone service to seven million users.

Washington slapped sanctions on Maduro himself last week following similar action against 13 Venezuelan figures on July 26.

The opposition coalition, a grouping of around 30 disparate parties called the Democratic Unity Roundtable, has been struggling with how to keep pressure on Maduro, whom it wants to see ousted through early elections.

But the opposition blasted as "fraudulent" the balloting that elected the Constituent Assembly.

The Venezuelan government reacted by saying the U.S. was "making a fool of itself in front of the world".

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