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Trump warns Venezuela's Maduro of 'economic actions' over bid to rewrite constitution

Julio Borges (C), president of the National Assembly and deputy of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties, addresses the media after an unofficial plebiscite against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on July 17. Photograph: (Reuters)

Reuters Caracas, Capital District, Venezuela Jul 17, 2017, 10.03 PM (IST)

US President Donald Trump on Monday warned Caracas of "economic actions" if Nicolas Maduro delivers on his bid to rewrite the constitution, calling the Venezuelan president a "bad leader who dreams of being a dictator."

"The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles," Trump said in a statement. 

"If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions," he said, without elaborating on what those measures would be.

Trump praised the Venezuelan opposition's unsanctioned Sunday vote that saw more than a third of the country's 19 million voters reject Maduro's plan to have a citizens' body, dubbed a "Constituent Assembly," elected on July 30 to redraft the constitution.

"Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law," Trump said. 

"Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator."

The US State Department also applauded Sunday's symbolic poll, and encouraged "governments in the hemisphere and around the world to call on President Maduro to suspend this process which only seeks to undermine democracy in Venezuela."

Venezuela's vote -- which the Maduro administration dismissed as "illegal" -- came amid months of deadly protests against the socialist leader, as the country suffers from shortages of basic goods, soaring inflation and climbing unemployment.

The opposition has accused Maduro of driving the country into bankruptcy, and of planning to use the Constituent Assembly to sideline the legislature. 

Yet Maduro has insisted the proposed body is "the only path" to peace and economic recovery. Thus far, he has shown no sign of backing down.

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