WASHINGTON The United States expressed concern on Monday that the Venezuelan government is trying to obstruct the actions of the country's National Assembly, which convenes on Tuesday for its first session with an opposition majority in more than 16 years.
"We are concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to interfere with the newly elected National Assembly exercising its constitutionally mandated duties," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters, without giving details.
President Nicolas Maduro responded saying that Venezuela would "not accept imperialism."
"Why does the State Department and the U.S. government care about the installation of the National Assembly?" Maduro said during a television address on Monday evening.
In a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday, Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he was deeply troubled by attempts by Maduro's government to "reverse the results" of the National Assembly elections.
Menendez, who sponsored a bill that imposed sanctions against Venezuela in 2014 after a crackdown on political opponents, urged the White House to take further measures to stop Maduro's government from trying to undermine a meaningful political transition in Venezuela.
"I write to urge you and your administration to take immediate steps to ensure that Mr Maduro's regime is denied the space to obstruct Venezuela's path to democratic order," Menendez wrote.
"I believe you can accomplish this with a combination of close monitoring of key international organizations and meaningful, internationally imposed penalties."
Venezuela's opposition coalition on Sunday chose Henry Ramos, 72, who is secretary of the Democratic Action party, to lead the new National Assembly. The new Congress is likely to get off to a conflictive start on Tuesday when it formally chooses the body's president.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Girish Gupta in Caracas; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler)