Clashes kill three during Venezuela’s anti-Maduro general strike; Trump administration sanctions 13 Venezuelan officials

Three people have been killed in clashes between Venezuelan security forces and protesters during an opposition-led 48-hour strike against President Nicolas Maduro that entered a second day on Thursday, bringing the death toll to at least 106 people since protests were launched in April.

Many streets around Venezuela remained barricaded and deserted during the second day of an opposition-led shutdown. The strike aims to pressure Maduro into cancelling a controversial vote for a new constituent assembly at the weekend. 

The Venezuelan prosecutor's office said that a 23-year-old man was killed in western Merida state and a 16-year-old boy died in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Petare during clashes on Wednesday. That added to the previously announced death of a 30-year-old man, also in mountainous Merida state. 

More than 170 people have been arrested during the strike so far, a local human rights group said. 

In other news, the Trump administration sanctioned 13 Venezuelans tied to Maduro's government Wednesday, four days before the South American nation plans to hold a vote that the U.S. says will turn Maduro’s rule into a dictatorship. 

The U.S. froze assets and banned travel visas for the 13 individuals, who are high-ranking current or former leaders of the government, the military, the country’s state oil producer and the agency that controls its currency-exchange rate, in an attempt to continue punishing Maduro loyalists for undemocratic, violent and corrupt actions. 

Venezuela should expect further sanctions if it moves forward with Sunday’s vote to create a national constituent assembly, the White House said Wednesday afternoon, confirming the list of names first reported by the Miami Herald. 

“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,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. 

Eight of the names listed Wednesday coincide with a list of 10 Venezuelans that U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sent President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggesting possible sanction targets. 

The sanctions won praise from members of Congress, including Cuban-American Republicans from Miami have been closely involved in pushing for action against Maduro’s government, which they see as an extension of Raúl Castro’s totalitarian regime in Cuba. 

“Only by ensuring that those who violate the human rights of Venezuelans are not able to enter the United States or access their money and properties in our country can we send a clear message that we will not tolerate the continued abuse happening in Venezuela,” Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.