Venezuela de­fi­ant amid vote re­bukes

U.S. adds Maduro to sanc­tions list; new assem­bly in wings.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Michael Weissenstein and Fabi­ola Sanchez

Venezuela’s so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment Mon­day claimed a pop­u­lar man­date to dra­mat­i­cally re­cast the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem even as con­demna- tions of the process poured in from gov­ern­ments around the world and the op­po­si­tion at home.

The United States added Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro to a steadily grow­ing list of high-ranking Venezue­lan of­fi­cials tar­geted by fi­nan­cial sanc­tions, es­ca­lat­ing a tac­tic that has so far failed to al­ter the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment’s be­hav­ior.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra- tion backed away from ear­lier threats to sanc­tion Vene- zuela’s oil in­dus­try — a move that could un­der­mine Mad- uro’s gov­ern­ment but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen Venezuela’s hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

Elec­toral author­i­ties said more than 8 mil­lion peo- ple voted Sun­day to cre­ate a con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly en­dow­ing Maduro’s rul­ing party with vir­tu­ally un­lim- ited pow­ers — a fig­ure widely dis­puted by in­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts.

The of­fi­cial re­sult would mean the rul­ing party won more sup­port than it had in any na­tional elec­tion since 2013, de­spite a cra­ter­ing econ­omy, spi­ral­ing in­fla- tion, short­ages of medicine and mal­nu­tri­tion. Opin­ion polls showed 85 percent of Venezue­lans dis­ap­proved of the con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly and sim­i­lar num­bers dis­ap­prove of Maduro’s over­all per­for­mance.

In­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts and op­po­si­tion lead­ers es­ti­mated the real turnout at less than half the gov­ern­ment’s claim in a vote watched by gov­ern- ment-al­lied ob­servers but no in­ter­na­tion­ally poll mon­i­tors.

Op­po­si­tion leader Hen­rique Capriles, the gov­er­nor of the cen­tral state of Mi­randa, urged Venezue­lans to protest Mon­day against an assem­bly that crit­ics fear will ef­fec­tively cre­ate a sin­gle-party state.

Maduro has said the new assem­bly will be­gin to gov­ern within a week. He said he would use the assem­bly’s pow­ers to bar op­po­si­tion can­di­dates from run­ning in gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tions in De­cem­ber un­less they sit with his party to ne­go­ti­ate an end to hos­til­i­ties that have gen­er­ated four months of protests that have killed at least 120 and wounded nearly 2,000.

Venezuela’s chief prose­cu­tor’s of­fice re­ported 10 deaths in new rounds of clashes Sun­day be­tween protesters and po­lice. Seven po­lice of­fi­cers were wounded when a fiery ex­plo­sion went off as they drove past trash be­ing used to block­ade a street. rec­og­nized

ARI­ANA CU­BIL­LOS / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mem­bers of the Venezue­lan Army line up Sun­day out­side a poll sta­tion in Cara­cas for a vote on a new con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly.

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