The White House has threatened Venezuela with potential “strong and swift economic actions” if the country's socialist government imposes a plan to rewrite the constitution and consolidate the ruling party's power -- a plan that more than 7 million people rejected in a vote over the weekend.
“Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law,” the White House said in a statement on Monday evening. “Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”
Organizers said they hoped Sunday's symbolic referendum would discourage President Nicolas Maduro’s planned national election on July 30 to pick a 545-member special assembly that would have the ability to build a new constitution.
“The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” The White House said. “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions. The United States once again calls for free and fair elections and stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”
Maduro made no mention of the opposition's strike plans in a lengthy television appearance Monday afternoon but called on his foes to recognize that Sunday's vote had been almost entirely peaceful.
The vote was marred by violence when a 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded by gunfire after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site at a church in western Caracas.
Fox News' Serafin Gomez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.