Of­fi­cial al­leges fraud in elec­tion tal­lies

Venezuela’s at­tor­ney gen­eral wants to halt the seat­ing of a new Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Mery Mo­gol­lon and Chris Kraul Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dents Mo­gol­lon and Kraul re­ported from Cara­cas and Bo­gota, Colom­bia, re­spec­tively.

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s at­tor­ney gen­eral on Thurs­day sought a court order to halt the in­stal­la­tion of a new Na­tional As­sem­bly be­cause of the sus­pected com­mis­sion of crimes dur­ing last week­end’s vote to elect del­e­gates.

Atty. Gen. Luisa Ortega Diaz, a critic of so­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, said she had opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged voter fraud in con­nec­tion with the con­tro­ver­sial bal­lot­ing. Ortega, who had filed com­plaints with the Supreme Court chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of a new as­sem­bly, filed Thurs­day’s re­quest in a lower court.

The elec­tion came amid a ris­ing toll of deaths and ar­rests tied to four months of vi­o­lent clashes be­tween antigov­ern­ment pro­test­ers and au­thor­i­ties. The new as­sem­bly is ex­pected to re­write the na­tion’s con­sti­tu­tion, which lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional As­sem­bly say is a way for Maduro to skirt the demo­cratic process.

Maduro, who met with del­e­gates Wed­nes­day, said the newly elected as­sem­bly would hold its first meet­ing Friday in­stead of Thurs­day.

He said he stood by the vote, which was boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion, de­spite the Bri­tish com­pany that pro­vided vot­ing ma­chines say­ing the bal­lot was tam­pered with and the com­pany could not en­dorse the re­sults.

The Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil de­nied any im­pli­ca­tion of bal­lot ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Ortega said in a CNN interview that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the vot­ing is im­por­tant be­cause a new con­sti­tu­tion is il­le­gal to be­gin with and be­cause of its long-term ef­fect on Venezue­lans.

“This [al­le­ga­tion] is too se­ri­ous and we have to de­ter­mine who is re­spon­si­ble,” Ortega said, adding that she would soon ques­tion mem­bers of the elec­toral coun­cil about al­leged fraud in the vote tally. “This is an­other facet of an il­le­gal process, the con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly.”

Pushed by Maduro as nec­es­sary to bring order to Venezuela, the new char­ter has been crit­i­cized as open­ing the door to dic­ta­tor­ship. On Sun­day, vot­ers elected 537 mem­bers of a new con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly who will con­vene Friday to be­gin draft­ing a doc­u­ment.

The del­e­gates, all of whom were can­di­dates put forth by Maduro, are ex­pected to re­place the demo­crat­i­cally elected and op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional As­sem­bly and hand ad­di­tional pow­ers to Maduro.

Ortega has de­clared the con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly to be il­le­gal be­cause the pres­i­dent failed to ask vot­ers to first au­tho­rize it by ap­prov­ing it in a na­tion­wide ref­er­en­dum as called for in the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion.

“The coun­try is headed to­ward dic­ta­tor­ship. If we con­tinue with­out agree­ment, we will lose all traces of democ­racy,” Ortega said.

In a tele­vised speech Wed­nes­day night, Maduro de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing An­to­nio Mug­ica, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the vot­ing­ma­chine com­pany, Smart­matic, was try­ing to “stain the elec­toral process.”

“They call me a dic­ta­tor. I am not a dic­ta­tor,” Maduro said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.