United States sanctions Venezuelan president, calls him 'dictator'

"We know well these interventionist practises", the Cuban government said.

Venezuelan security officials seized two opposition leaders from their homes in overnight raids, their families said on Tuesday, in what critics of President Nicolas Maduro said was further evidence that he is leading a dictatorship.

"They've just taken Leopoldo from the house", Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter.

There we have it - if only Chávez had executed the "establishment elite" rather than charitably allowing them to live, then they wouldn't now be sabotaging the glorious Bolivarian revolution.

McMaster called the vote a "sham election".

The US along with other South American nations and the European Union (EU) have said they will not recognise the assembly established from the vote. "Venezuela stands on the brink of disaster and Nicholas Maduro's government must stop before it is too late".

Lopez had been holed up in the military jail of Ramo Verde until last month, when he was unexpectedly granted house arrest in what was then seen as a breakthrough in the country's political standoff.

Canada also denounced the Venezuelan government's action in creating the constituent assembly, referring to it as another step down the path to institutionalize authoritarian rule in the country. "The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment", Maduro said on national television.

"I don't obey orders from foreign governments and never will..."

Mr. Maduro said the newly created constituent assembly would help bring peace to the country.

The election of a constituent assembly on Sunday was held amid mass protests.

"'Chavismo' has recovered its historical voting level", said Socialist Party heavyweight Jorge Rodriguez in a televised press conference on Monday, adding some 10 million Venezuelans would have voted had the opposition not staged roadblocks on Sunday.

"If it wasn't a tragedy. if it didn't mean more crisis, the electoral council's number would nearly make you laugh", opposition leader Freddy Guevara said on Twitter. "Here are your sanctions at himself, Donald trump!" Maduro has threatened that one of the constitutional assembly's first acts would be jailing Guevara for inciting violence.

Along with the USA, the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday's vote.

A banner that reads "Maduro, this is not Cuba!"

Government officials have for weeks suggested that she will be removed by the new assembly, which will have the power to dissolve state institutions such as the opposition-run Congress and dismiss state officials. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela's inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.

  • Jacqueline Ellis