Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has branded US sanctions levelled at his regime as “insolent”, while pressure mounts over his controversial plan to elect a new body to rewrite the country’s constitution. The US measures came as Venezuela’s opposition began a two-day nationwide strike aimed at ousting the president through early elections. The deadliness of four months of violent anti-Maduro protests was further confirmed with the death by gunfire of a 30-year-old man in a demonstration in the west of the country. Prosecutors said a 16-year-old boy also was killed in Wednesday’s disturbances in Caracas. The deaths raised to 105 the number of people killed since April 1 in clashes with security forces. In Washington, the US Treasury unveiled a list of 13 current and former officials, including the interior minister, senior military brass, the president of the electoral council and the finance chief of state oil company PDVSA, whose US assets would be frozen. The opposition and US aim to force Maduro to abandon his plan to form a 545-member “Constituent Assembly”, which is set to be elected on Sunday. Critics say it would be a step towards a dictatorship, by bypassing or dissolving the opposition-held National Assembly. Maduro hit out at the US punishment as “illegal, insolent and unprecedented.” “Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are? The government of the world?” he said in a speech. Maduro has accused the US of fomenting the unrest against him and his government, with the help of the conservative opposition. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan military has declared its loyalty to the president. Venezuela on edge as opposition plans symbolic vote against president Nicolas Maduro The political struggle has deepened fears that months of street violence could worsen. And with widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, more and more locals are either joining the strikes or crossing the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest. “The elections are on Sunday and we really don’t know what will happen,” said Maria de los Angeles Pichardo, who left with her husband and son. “To be safe, we prefer to cross.” In announcing the US sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said America was “standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.” He warned that anybody who is elected to the Constituent Assembly could also be slapped with US sanctions. Thirteen countries in the 35-member Organisation of American States, a regional political bloc, urged Maduro to suspend Sunday’s election. Nations including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Canada said the vote amounted to a “dismantling of democratic institutionality”. According to polling firm Datanalisis, about 70 per cent of Venezuelans are opposed to the Constituent Assembly. ‘Get your pig hands out of hear’: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro unleashes extraordinary rant against US President Donald Trump Venezuela’s opposition, bolstered by an unofficial vote on July 16 that saw a third of the electorate reject Maduro’s plan, has called for a boycott of Sunday’s vote. Prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez made a direct appeal to the military early on Wednesday to withdraw support for Maduro’s plan, which he said aimed to eliminate democratic rule. Another major opposition demonstration is expected to be held in the capital on Friday. The president’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, also broke ranks over the issue and is now a vociferous opponent. At the same time, Maduro’s administration is being squeezed by an ongoing economic crisis. The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund predicts. Inflation is also projected to top 720 per cent while currency reserves have dwindled to less than US$10 billion as the government keeps up debt repayments to stave off a crippling default.