The United States government on Wednesday slapped sanctions on eight Venezuelan officials. The US slapped sanctions on the officials for the role they played in the creation of powerful law-making body fiercely loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Fears over Venezuela's shaky economy

The new sanctions imposed by Washington targeted top Venezuelan politicians and security heads. However, the country's oil industry was spared. According to a United States government official, sanctions on Venezuela's energy sector could still be imposed. If implemented, such sanctions could potentially cripple Venezuela's already weak economy.

The United States decided to impose the sanctions in response to Friday's formation of the constituent assembly, a legislative body whose membership is composed of allies to President Nicolas Maduro's ruling Socialist Party. The lawmaking body has the power to make changes to Venezuela's constitution.

Crackdown on Venezuela's dissenting voices

After its inauguration, the assembly swiftly moved to fire the country's top prosecutor. The prosecutor had accused President Maduro of Human Rights Violations. The prosecutor's removal heightened fears by the country's opposition that Maduro plans to use the legislative body to remove dissenting figures from the government.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's Supreme court - which is pro-Maduro- is working around the clock to prosecute opposition figures.

One of the opposition politicians facing charges is Ramon Muchacho. Muchacho is the mayor of the resources-rich Chacao district. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court removed him from his mayoral job and sentenced him to fifteen months in prison, for allegedly failing to quell anti-government marches in his area of jurisdiction. After the court had announced his decision, Muchacho appeared in a film shot at an undisclosed location.

In the video, the disgraced mayor urged all the people of Venezuela to continue with the struggle against President Maduro's socialist government.

The district of Chacao has been the nerve center of the activism against Nicolas Maduro. Muchacho's video could help galvanize the protests, which have fizzled out.

In the sanctions announced on Wednesday, the US government will freeze the assets of the affected Venezuelan government officials. The officials will also be banned from visiting the United States. American citizens will also be prohibited from conducting business with the concerned Venezuelan officials.