Venezuela braces for new protests af­ter deadly vote

Pres­i­dent Maduro claims vic­tory in Sun­day’s elec­tion, cit­ing a turnout of 41.5%

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Cara­cas, Venezuela - Venezuela braced for new protests on Mon­day af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial elec­tion for an as­sem­bly to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion un­leashed a wave of un­rest that left 10 peo­ple dead.

Op­po­nents of em­bat­tled Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro vowed an­other day of na­tion­wide marches, de­fy­ing an in­ten­si­fy­ing crack­down on protests that have left more than 120 peo­ple dead in four months.

Flout­ing in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion - in­clud­ing the threat of new sanc­tions by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion - Maduro mean­while claimed vic­tory in Sun­day’s elec­tion, cit­ing an of­fi­cial turnout fig­ure of 41.5 per cent.

The left­ist leader en­cour­aged the new ‘Con­stituent As­sem­bly’ to wield its vast pow­ers to scrap op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers’ im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion as one of its first acts.

Pro­test­ers at­tacked polling sta­tions and bar­ri­caded streets around the coun­try on Sun­day, draw­ing a bloody re­sponse from se­cu­rity forces, who opened fire with live am­mu­ni­tion in some cases.

De­spite the un­rest and an op­po­si­tion boy­cott, the Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil said there had been ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary turnout’ of more than eight mil­lion vot­ers.

Dressed in bright red, his fist clenched and face beam­ing, Maduro hailed it as a win in a speech to hun­dreds of cheer­ing sup­port­ers in cen­tral Cara­cas early on Mon­day.

“It is the big­gest vote the revo­lu­tion has ever scored in its 18 year his­tory,” he said, re­fer­ring to the year his late men­tor, Hugo Chavez, came to power.

“What the hell do we care what Trump says?”

Heather Nauert

Mem­bers of the new as­sem­bly will in­clude his wife Cilia Flores, his pug­na­cious right-hand man Dios­dado Ca­bello, and other staunch al­lies.

The so­cial­ist Pres­i­dent is gam­bling his four-year rule on the 545-mem­ber as­sem­bly, which will be em­pow­ered to dis­solve the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled congress and re­write the con­sti­tu­tion.

There was blis­ter­ing in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of the vote, led by Wash­ing­ton.

The con­stituent as­sem­bly aims to ‘un­der­mine the Venezue­lan peo­ple’s right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion’, US State De­part­ment spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a state­ment.

It threat­ened fur­ther ‘strong and swift’ sanc­tions on Maduro’s gov­ern­ment, af­ter the US slapped sanc­tions on 13 cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials last week.

The elec­tion was also con­demned by the Euro­pean Union, Canada and Latin Amer­i­can pow­ers in­clud­ing Ar­gentina, Brazil, Colom­bia and Mex­ico.

Se­nior op­po­si­tion leader Hen­rique Capriles called on Venezue­lans to con­tinue de­fy­ing the deeply un­pop­u­lar Maduro with new protests against the elec­tion and the ‘mas­sacre’ he said ac­com­pa­nied it.

“We do not recog­nise this fraud­u­lent process,” he said, call­ing for a mass protest in Cara­cas on Wed­nes­day, the day the new as­sem­bly is due to be in­stalled.

Maduro has banned protests over the vote, threat­en­ing prison terms of up to ten years.

The death toll in Sun­day’s protests in­cluded a can­di­date for the new as­sem­bly, a re­gional op­po­si­tion leader, two teenage pro­test­ers and a sol­dier in the west­ern state of Tachira, which saw some of the worst vi­o­lence.

The con­stituent as­sem­bly aims to un­der­mine the Venezue­lan peo­ple’s right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion

A pro­tester (left) fires from an im­pro­vised hand­gun dur­ing clashes with se­cu­rity forces, in Cara­cas on Sun­day; a video grab (right) shows po­lice of­fi­cers help­ing a col­league who caught fire af­ter an ex­plo­sive de­vice went off on a street as they rode past dur­ing the protest in Cara­cas on Sun­day

(AFP)

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