Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ordered the removal and imprisonment of a Caracas-area mayor for not obeying orders to shut down protests in his district.
David Smolansky is the fifth opposition mayor to be removed or jailed in little more than two weeks as President Nicolas Maduro attempts to consolidate his power by going after his enemies.
He was sentenced to 15 months in jail in a ruling Wednesday night.
Later on Wednesday, speaking from an undisclosed location, Smolansky rallied his people to protest to defend their district.
The former student activist had been one of the most-prominent leaders of four months of anti-government protests that have left at least 124 people dead and hundreds more injured or jailed.
Meanwhile, a new wave of US sanctions targeted politicians and security figures but stopped short of actions against Venezuela’s vital oil industry.
US officials said that energy-sector sanctions, which could cripple Venezuela’s already ailing economy, are still being considered.
The sanctions, unveiled on Wednesday, will freeze US assets of the officials targeted, ban them from travel to the US and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
Washington clamped sanctions on Maduro himself last week following actions against 13 Venezuelan figures last month.
Maduro’s popularity has been pounded by triple-digit inflation and acute food and medicine shortages which he blames on right-wing conspirators in league with the US “empire”.
Maduro says the 545-member assembly will bring peace and prosperity to Venezuela.