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Venezuela’s Socialist President Threatens To Sue America As Sanctions Begin To Bite

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro is preparing to sue the United States for declaring his country an extraordinary threat and imposing sanctions on government officials.

On March 9, President Barack Obama signed an order sanctioning seven Venezuelan officials for gross human rights violations. Maduro claimed his government had gathered 11 million signatures in support of the lawsuit.

Speaking in a televised address, Maduro said, “we can’t have that decree around. It’s like the Sword of Damocles here,” pointing to his neck. “We’re going to file a lawsuit in the U.S. against that decree.”

The increasingly isolated president said the lawsuit will show the “international illegality” of the US order. U.S. relations with Venezuela plunged to new lows after Thomas Shannon, nominee for undersecretary of state, said fresh actions could be taken against Maduro’s government.

On Thursday, Shannon said the relationship “will depend on what happens around the legislative elections and what happens around the issue of political prisoners.”

He added that the conduct of legislative elections to be held in December “is going to be a very important part in how we manage the next step in the relationship.”

Maduro’s administration has banned all international observers from overseeing his country’s election with the exception of a group from the Union of South American Nations. Although a fervent opponent of the U.S., Maduro’s government hasn’t been shy about using American institutions when it suits them.

Venezuela leveraged the American justice system to its advantage last week filing a lawsuit to shutdown DolarToday which publishes data on the value of Venezuela’s currency. The Venezuelan central bank accused the site of wreaking economic havoc and committing cyberterrorism.

Massive government intervention in the economy such as price controls and nationalisation has wrecked Venezuela’s finances with shortages running rampant. Long lines snaking around street blocks are regular across the capital of Caracas. The inflation rate is close to 800 percent and the black market is thriving.

In 2014, according to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index, Venezuela was ranked the least economically free country in the world. (RELATED: Venezuelan Bishops Blame Socialism For Country’s Woes)

Back in February, Maduro accused business leaders of “conspiring” against the people and trying to undermine his government. The president accused businessmen of waging “economic war” and deliberately cutting the number of cashiers at stores to create long lines.

The halving of the oil price, Venezuela’s most important commodity and export, has also hit the economy hard with less money coming into the treasury to pay for a vast array of government programs.

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