After the “vote” on Sunday which semi-officially ensconced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in place as the dictator and sole authority in his country, many of us were left wondering what options remain for the west. The United States initially stated by way of Nikki Haley that we wouldn’t accept the results of the sham election and would deliver an appropriate response. That came quickly yesterday in the form of new sanctions personally targeting Maduro. (CBS News)

The Trump administration announced the U.S. will impose financial sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The move comes after Venezuela held a weekend election that will give Maduro’s ruling party virtually unlimited power in the South American country…

As a result of the sanctions, the statement read, “all assets of Maduro are now subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and all U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him.”

At Monday’s White House press briefing, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster read a statement from President Trump regarding the new sanctions. Mr. Trump condemned the Maduro regime’s refusal to heed the Venezueulan constitution by carrying out a “sham election.”

“This outrageous seizure of absolute power through a sham election represents a serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere,” McMaster said. He added that Maduro “is not just a bad leader — he is now a dictator.” “The United States stands with people of Venezuela in face of this oppression,” he said.

Freezing Maduro’s personal assets (on top of similar actions taken against many of his henchmen recently) is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it’s been suspected for some time that Maduro has already moved most of his wealth around to friendlier locations. Also, given how much of his personal wealth has come from robbing his own people via massive corruption in the Venezuelan government, there’s a lot we simply can’t touch. Still, this was absolutely the right thing for the President to do.

In the meantime, the few glimmers of progress we’d seen in Venezuela in recent weeks seem to have been immediately cancelled out after Sunday’s vote. A little less than a month ago we saw a small but hopeful sign of possible reform on Maduro’s part when he released opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison after years of confinement. He was transferred to home detention while awaiting trial and his supporters were hopeful that this was a sign of Maduro softening his stance toward his political opponents.

That came to a quick end on Monday night as Lopez was once again dragged from his home by government militia troops and hauled back to prison. (ABC News)

Following a dramatic surrender and a night in jail, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was due in court Wednesday to learn what charges he may face for allegedly provoking violence during protests against the socialist government in the divided nation…

Lopez, who has emerged in recent months as a new, more aggressive face of Venezuela’s opposition, told thousands of cheering supporters who watched his surrender on Tuesday that he does not fear imprisonment if it will help undo what he considers the damage done by 15 years of socialist rule launched by the late Hugo Chavez.

“If my jailing serves to awaken a people, serves to awaken Venezuela … then it will be well worth the infamous imprisonment imposed upon me directly, with cowardice,” he shouted through a megaphone from atop a statue of 19th century Cuban independence hero Jose Marti in a Caracas plaza.

Lopez has become an inspirational figure, but his options for a fair hearing are limited (if not eliminated) now that any semblance of representative government has been erased in Venezuela. There are also ongoing concerns over his health, rumored to have deteriorated considerably during his previous stint in Maduro’s prisons. How much longer he will be able to hold on if he disappears into the dungeons again is an open question.

Almost nothing stands in Maduro’s way at this point. Much like Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, he now holds absolute power and controls an armed militia powerful enough to squash an regional uprisings. Absent a complete revolt across the nation it’s difficult to see how this ends in anything other than tragedy for the Venezuelan people.