In a statement released Monday night, President Trump threatened to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela should the nation’s president, Nicolas Maduro, follow through on his pledge to create a “constituent assembly” capable of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. The warning comes a day after more than 7 million Venezuelans participated in a symbolic referendum vote to reject Maduro’s plan, which many see as a ploy for the president to retain control of Venezuela following the end of his term in 2019. On Sunday, an estimated 98 percent of the nation’s opposition supporters voted against the proposed assembly.
“Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law,” President Trump said on Monday. “Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.” Trump’s statement echoes the sentiment of Venezuelan opposition leaders, who branded Maduro a dictator back in March when Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which remains loyal to Maduro, annulled the nation’s democratically elected congress. The decision—widely seen as an attempt to authorize Maduro’s oil joint ventures—prompted opposition protesters to storm the streets of Venezuela, waving signs that read “No to Dictatorship.”