Venezuela defiant as U.S. moves to sanction president

Four months of protests against Maduro have left more than 100 people dead amid fierce international criticism

Lopez was detained three years ago after protests against Maduro's government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison on charges that include inciting protesters to violence.

Maduro's own attorney general, Luisa Ortega - who broke with him months ago over his policies - also said she would not acknowledge the body, calling it part of the president's "dictatorial ambition". "But we'll die fighting them".

Local media posted mobile phone footage of Mr Ledezma, wearing pyjamas, being taken forcibly from his home as a woman shouts "dictatorship!"

The constituent assembly itself has come under fire because it was created to rewrite the constitution and possibly supplant the opposition-led congress, whose members were elected in a conventional election in December 2015.

The US along with other South American nations and the European Union (EU) have said they will not recognise the assembly established from the vote.

Their apprehension comes a day after the United States slapped sanctions on unpopular leftist Maduro for a new legislative superbody, the constituent assembly, which was elected on Sunday in a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Lopez had been holed up in the military jail of Ramo Verde until last month, when he was unexpectedly granted house arrest in what was then seen as a breakthrough in the country's political standoff. Maduro's Socialist Party would have a stranglehold on power and create a Castro-like communist rule in Venezuela.

The election of a constituent assembly on Sunday was held amid mass protests.

"The emperor Donald Trump took decisions against me that show his desperation and hate", President Maduro said in a televised speech on Monday. I don't deserve imperialist orders.

Maduro says a new constitution is the only way to end such conflicts.

National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced just before midnight that turnout in Sunday's vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people. The Trump administration again promised "strong and swift actions" against Venezuelan officials, including the 545 participants in the constitutional assembly, many of them low-ranking party members. "The election of the Constituent Assembly was carried out by massacring the basic principles of transparency, neutrality and universality that should characterize free and fair elections", Almagro said in a statement on Monday.

Along with the USA, the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday's vote.

"Nicolas Maduro's government must stop before it is too late", he said.

The constituent assembly will have the task of rewriting the country's constitution and will have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

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