Trump calls on Venezuela's Maduro to 'restore democracy'

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The Trump administration has stepped up economic pressure on Venezuela, announcing new financial sanctions which prohibit U.S. citizens from purchasing any Venezuelan debt.

President Maduro has won another term as president in Venezuela, following an election boycotted by the opposition and described as a "sham" by the US government.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order which imposes new penalties and bars United States companies or citizens from buying debt or accounts receivable from the Venezuelan government, including Petróleos de Venezuela, the government-owned oil company that is the parent of Citgo Petroleum Corporation.

Russian Federation came to Venezuela's rescue late previous year with a debt-restructuring deal after it was driven to the verge of default by falling oil prices and tough USA sanctions - sanctions that the United States ratcheted up further on May 21 to counter what Washington sees as Maduro's increasingly autocratic grip on his country.

Earlier on Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence lashed out at Venezuela's elections in a statement, saying it was a "sham" that was "neither free nor fair".

"The US stands with democratic nations in support of the Venezuelan people and will take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The first step may be to reconcile with Henri Falcon, Maduro's main rival in the election who distanced himself from the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition, which boycotted the "fraud" vote. The U.S. "will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their fearless people continues", he added.

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

"The region has never seen a kleptocracy like this", one official said. Turnout figures in last year's elections for a constitutional assembly, which the opposition also boycotted, were inflated by at least 1 million votes, according to the company that provided technology for Venezuela's electronic voting machines for more than a decade.

"We wish that the election results will contribute to the further strengthening of peace and stability in Venezuela and to the increasing of the prosperity of the people of Venezuela", it added. "This money belongs to the Venezuelan people".

Venezuela continues to grapple with a widening economic crisis that has led to political instability, massive protests and food shortages.

Trump's decision comes on the heels of Maduro's victory Sunday in an election boycotted by the main opposition coalition and scorned by the worldwide community. The BBC says 14 countries recalled their ambassadors to Venezuela.

Officials also outlined how the Maduro regime is using hunger as a weapon by parceling food and during the election, awarding food and small change to those who "voted" for Maduro.

While the Venezuelan vote was not on the G-20 official agenda, Mr. Maduro did not find a single backer among the diplomats representing 19 major industrialized nations, the European Union, and invited countries such as Chile, Spain and the Netherlands.

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