Maduro Thanks Putin for Recognizing Outcome of Venezuelan Presidential Election

President Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores celebrating in Caracas on Sunday

Critics at home and overseas on Monday denounced the re-election of Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro as a farce cementing autocracy, while the U.S. government imposed new sanctions on the crisis-stricken oil-producing country.

Venezuelan officials declared socialist leader Nicolas Maduro the easy victor of Sunday's presidential election, while his leading challenger questioned the legitimacy of a vote marred by irregularities and called for a new ballot to prevent a brewing social crisis from exploding.

In a related development, President Donald Trump of the U.S. signed an executive order restricting Maduro's government from selling off, or borrowing against, public assets.

"I have taken action to prevent the Maduro regime from conducting 'fire sales, ' liquidating Venezuela's critical assets-assets the country will need to rebuild its economy", Trump said in a news release Monday afternoon.

China has extended more than US$50 billion in funding to Caracas through its oil-for-loans scheme, supporting the regimes of both Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, but the flow of cash has slowed since Venezuela's economy started to collapse in 2014.

"Today's executive order closes another avenue for corruption that we have observed being used: it denies corrupt Venezuelan officials the ability to improperly value and sell off public assets in return for kickbacks", a senior administration official told reporters in Washington.

Vice President Mike Pence also tore into the Maduro regime on Monday, declaring in a statement that the United States "will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their fearless people continues".

"It's offensive when they say the Venezuelan people are falling under dictatorship", he said after voting.

"Never before has a presidential candidate taken 68 percent of the popular vote", he said. President Donald Trump signed an order that bars Americans from dealing with Venezuela's oil industry.

"[This] money belongs to the Venezuelan people", he said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called the sanctions "madness, barbaric, and in absolute contradiction to worldwide law".

The U.S. announcement came after a coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, pledged to scale back diplomatic relations with Venezuela and urge worldwide organizations not to issue the Venezuelan government any new credit unless it pertains to humanitarian aid.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, the host of Monday's G-20 summit, accused Mr. Maduro of having created a political and economic crisis that represents "a threat for regional security in health, migration, food, social and educational terms".

The National Election Council announced that with more than 92 per cent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won almost 68 per cent of the votes on Sunday, beating his nearest challenger Henri Falcon by more than 40 points.

The group deplored Venezuela's "grave humanitarian situation" behind a migrant exodus, and promised to help coordinate with global financial bodies to crack down on corruption and block loans to the government.

Venezuela's fractured opposition emerged even more powerless Monday, a day after an election it boycotted propelled socialist President Nicolas Maduro to an easy victory amid a crushing economic crisis.

A growing roster of nations issued condemnations Monday for Venezuela's election, threatening to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure.

Maduro, setting an example for government supporters who he called on to vote early, cast his ballot in Caracas shortly after fireworks and loud speakers blasting a military hymn roused Venezuelans from sleep around 5 a.m.



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