Venezuela’s Maduro Claims Vote Win, Opposition Vows Protests
Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory on Monday in an internationally criticised election to pick a new assembly to rewrite the constitution, but the opposition vowed to keep protesting despite deadly clashes.
Ten people were killed in a wave of bloodshed that swept Venezuela on Sunday as Maduro defied an opposition boycott and international condemnation — including the threat of new US sanctions — to hold elections for a powerful new “Constituent Assembly”.
Protesters attacked polling stations and barricaded streets around the country, drawing a bloody response from security forces, who opened fire with live ammunition in some cases.
Despite the boycott and the unrest, the head of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena — one of 13 Maduro allies already hit by US sanctions — said there had been “extraordinary turnout” of more than eight million voters, 41.5% of the electorate.
In a speech to hundreds of supporters in central Caracas, Maduro hailed it as a win. “We have a Constituent Assembly,” he said. “It is the biggest vote the revolution has ever scored in its 18-year history,” he said, referring to the year his late mentor,HugoChavez,cametopower.
The socialist president is gambling his four-year rule on the 545-member assembly, which will be empowered to dissolve the op- position-controlled congress and rewrite the constitution.
There was blistering international condemnation of the vote, led by Washington. “The US condemns the elections... for the National Constituent Assembly, which is designed to replace the legitimately elected National Assembly and undermine the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination,” US State DepartmentspokeswomanHeather Nauert said in a statement.