Venezuela reacts after the US assets of six members of the newly elected constituent assembly were frozen and says Washington is "making a fool of itself in front of the world."
The US imposed new sanctions on crisis-hit Venezuela, targeting members of a controversial, all-powerful, loyalist assembly installed last week to bolster what the US calls the "dictatorship" of President Nicolas Maduro.
The measures announced on Wednesday were aimed at six members of the constituent assembly — among them the brother of late president Hugo Chavez — as well as a military officer in charge of security for the body and a board member of the national electoral authority.
They added to previous US sanctions on Maduro himself — a rare step against a sitting head of state — imposed just before the assembly was elected on July 30 in a vote marred by violence, fraud allegations and an opposition boycott.
"Illegitimate constituent assembly"
"President Maduro swore in this illegitimate constituent assembly to further entrench his dictatorship, and continues to tighten his grip on the country," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
"This regime's disregard for the will of the Venezuelan people is unacceptable."
The Venezuelan government reacted by saying the US was "making a fool of itself in front of the world."
It "doesn't respect any criterion, any basic principle of international law," Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said. "Venezuela can't be sanctioned for anything, nor by anybody."
The sanctions freeze US assets of those targeted and ban American entities from doing business with them.
The US announcement came as the constituent assembly and Venezuela's supreme court took actions to limit the opposition's ability to challenge Maduro. The opposition is in power in the country's national assembly, considered by and large the legitimate legislative branch.
More than 125 people have died in violence since the opposition began protests in April. Judges appointed by the National Assembly have sought refuge in Chile while Venezuelans have been forced to flee due to lack of medical supplies.
The protesters say the crisis demands an early presidential election that they are sure Maduro would lose.
His popularity has been pounded lower by triple-digit inflation and acute food and medicine shortages which Maduro blames on right-wing conspirators in league with the US "empire."