The U.S. Treasury Department has announced sanctions against several key Venezuelan officials.

The announcement comes as Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, prepares for an election on Sunday which, if he wins, will allow him to change the country’s constitution.

The potential change has been viewed by his opposition as a grab for even more power and a slide towards a dictatorship.

The Daily Caller reports that there are currently 13 sanctioned officials, all of which will not be able to do business with individual Americans nor American businesses and will have any and all assets that reside in America frozen.

Four of the senior officials that have been sanctioned are directly involved in the election on Sunday.

The Treasury Department has also placed sanctions on current and former Venezuelan military and law enforcement groups as they have been identified as the perpetrators of brutal responses to anti-government protests.

The Treasury Department believes there to be around 15,000 civilians that have been wounded in the protests. There are also currently 431 political prisoners in detention.

“As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom, and the rule of law,” the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement.

“As our sanctions demonstrate, the United States is standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.  Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions.”

The sanctions were announced hours after a national strike began in Venezuela.

The 48-hour strike, which started Wednesday morning, is to oppose the possibility of Maduro gaining more power than he already has. Large protests are currently being held to oppose the Maduro regime.

CNN reports that thousands of Venezuelans are rallying for a second day.

“The call we’ve made for the coming days will require each of you to ask yourselves what role you have to play in Venezuela’s rescue,” said opposition leader and vice president of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara.

“They want to strike more fear in the people so they can go ahead with their election,” said Oscar Leandro, who is taking part in the protests. “We’re going to do everything we can to stop that from happening. We’re going to go every day into the streets, we’re going to go on strike for two days this week. Then we’re going to take the capital and we’re not going to allow them to have their election.”

According to Maduro, rewriting the constitution of Venezuela is essential to restore order and apply justice to the country.

Sources:
The Daily Caller
CNN