CURBS ON MADURO

Gov­ern­ment claims 8M voted to give Maduro vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited pow­ers

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Weisen­stein and Fabi­ola Sanchez

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion im­poses sanc­tions on Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, af­ter an elec­tion that crit­ics called a tip­ping point to­ward dic­ta­tor­ship.

CARA­CAS, VENEZUELA» Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro claimed a pop­u­lar man­date Mon­day to re­cast Venezuela’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem dra­mat­i­cally, dis­miss­ing U.S. sanc­tions im­posed on him and con­dem­na­tions by his do­mes­tic op­po­nents and gov­ern­ments around the world.

Wash­ing­ton added 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 his so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment’s be­hav­ior. For the mo­ment, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion did not de­liver on threats to sanc­tion Venezuela’s oil in­dus­try, which could un­der­mine Maduro’s gov­ern­ment but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis here.

The sanc­tions came af­ter elec­toral author­i­ties said more than 8 mil­lion peo­ple voted Sun­day to cre­ate a con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly en­dow­ing Maduro’s rul­ing party with vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited pow­ers — a turnout doubted by in­de­pen­dent an­a­lysts while the elec­tion was la­beled il­le­git­i­mate by lead­ers across the Amer­i­cas and Europe.

Maduro said Mon­day evening he had no in­ten­tion of de­vi­at­ing from plans to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion and go af­ter a string of en­e­mies, from in­de­pen­dent Venezue­lan news chan­nels to gun­men he claimed were sent by neigh­bor­ing Colom­bia to dis­rupt the vote as part of an in­ter­na­tional con­spir­acy led by the man he calls “Em­peror Don­ald Trump.”

“They don’t in­tim­i­date me. The threats and sanc­tions of the em­pire don’t in­tim­i­date me for a mo­ment,” Maduro said on na­tional tele­vi­sion. “I don’t lis­ten to or­ders from the em­pire, not now or ever ... Bring on more sanc­tions, Don­ald Trump.”

Venezuela’s Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil said turnout in Sun­day’s vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 peo­ple. The re­sult would mean the rul­ing party won more sup­port than it had in any na­tional elec­tion since 2013, de­spite a cra­ter­ing econ­omy, spi­ral­ing in­fla­tion, short­ages of medicine and mal­nu­tri­tion. Opin­ion polls had said some 85 percent of Venezue­lans dis­ap­proved of the con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly and sim­i­lar num­bers dis­ap­proved of Maduro over­all.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers es­ti­mated the real turnout at less than half the gov­ern­ment’s claim in a vote watched by gov­ern­ment-al­lied ob­servers but no in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized poll mon­i­tors.

An exit poll based on sur­veys from 110 vot­ing cen­ters by New York in­vest­ment bank Torino Cap­i­tal and a Venezuela pub­lic opin­ion com­pany es­ti­mated 3.6 mil­lion peo­ple voted, or about 18.5 percent of reg­is­tered vot­ers.

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