Trump could hit Venezuela where it hurts: Oil

5 Killed in Violence during Venezuelan Opposition's General Strike against Maduro Regime

Critics say the new assembly could, through constitutional changes, give Maduro new powers and dissolve state institutions. Highways were mostly empty and businesses shuttered across the country as millions of people observed the 48-hour strike and activists threw up roadblocks in many neighborhoods to keep others from getting to work. But the hundreds of thousands who have sometimes taken to the streets during almost four months of anti-government protests were largely absent.

Its oil exports to the US totaled $10.2 billion in the year ending in May, according to Panjiva, a global trade research firm.

Supporters of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro cheer during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Voters Sunday will elect a 545-seat assembly that could do whatever it wants in rewriting the constitution - including abolishing the current National Assembly and even removing Maduro, said Luis Vicente Leon, a Venezuelan political analyst and college professor.

"We hope that the poll scheduled for Sunday, if it goes ahead, will proceed peacefully and in full respect of human rights, " Throssell told a briefing. His finance minister also told a local radio station the neighboring nation would sanction the same 13 former and current Venezuelan officials cited by the USA on Wednesday.

The President has urged the Opposition to begin talks with his government.

But Maduro called for the constitutional revisions, and with pro-Maduro candidates running for numerous seats, including former ministers in his government, the body is likely to favor him.

The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals have in the United States and bar Americans from doing business with them.

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"Nobody wants to be the guy that raises gas prices, that's not good for elected people", says Russ Dallen, managing partner of Caracas Capital, a USA investing firm that doesn't own Venezuelan debt.

By late afternoon, clashes between police and protesters erupted at some roadblocks in Caracas, and the chief prosecutor's office reported at least one person killed. It called late Friday for massive marches on the day of the assembly vote.

For the opposition, who have vowed to boycott it, Sunday's vote represents an illegal move to try to strip the country's legislative body of its power. "They took his violin and hit him with it", Romero said.

Given Canada's concerns about the Maduro regime, Ms. Todgham Cherniak said she wonders why the government has not yet sanctioned any Venezuelans.

In announcing the United States sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said America was "standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy". He became head of the mobile cabinet when Maduro assumed the presidency after Hugo Chavez's death in 2013.

He also denounced the alliance between Trump and factors of the Venezuelan opposition who have been inciting violence in some areas of the country since April and has resulted in the death of dozens and the destruction of public and private property.

The violent antigovernment protests in Venezuela, which have lasted for 119 days now, have already claimed 116 lives, according to some estimates, and have injured thousands, while thousands of other protesters have been arrested by the police.

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