CURBS ON MADURO
Government claims 8M voted to give Maduro virtually unlimited powers
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.