Venezue­lans stay away from polls to protest gov­ern­ment vote

West Hawaii Today - - Nation & World -

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — Venezue­lans stayed away from the polls in huge num­bers Sun­day in a show of protest against a vote to grant Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s rul­ing so­cial­ist party vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited pow­ers in the face of a bru­tal so­cioe­co­nomic cri­sis and a grind­ing bat­tle with its po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and groups of in­creas­ingly alien­ated and vi­o­lent young pro­test­ers.

The gov­ern­ment swore to con­tinue its push for to­tal po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance of this once-pros­per­ous OPEC na­tion, a move likely to trig­ger U.S. sanc­tions and new rounds of the street fight­ing that has killed at least 125 and wounded nearly 2,000 since protests be­gan in April.

Venezuela’s chief pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice re­ported 10 deaths Sun­day in clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and po­lice across the coun­try. Seven po­lice of­fi­cers were wounded when a fiery ex­plo­sion went off as they drove past piles of trash that had been used to block­ade a street in an op­po­si­tion strong­hold in eastern Cara­cas.

A list of na­tions in­clud­ing Ar­gentina, Canada, Colom­bia, Mex­ico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Great Bri­tain and the United States said they would not rec­og­nize Sun­day’s vote. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion again promised “strong and swift ac­tions” against Venezue­lan of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the 545 par­tic­i­pants in the con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly, many of them lowrank­ing party mem­bers. The U.S. did not say whether it would sanc­tion Venezue­lan oil im­ports, a mea­sure with the po­ten­tial to desta­bi­lize Maduro’s gov­ern­ment and deepen the coun­try’s hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

Across this cap­i­tal of more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple, dozens of polling places were vir­tu­ally empty, in­clud­ing many that have seen hours-long lines of thou­sands vot­ing to keep the gov­ern­ment in power over the last two decades. At the Poliedro sports and cul­tural com­plex in west­ern Cara­cas, sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple waited about two hours to vote, many drawn from op­po­si­tion­dom­i­nated neigh­bor­hoods where polling places were closed. But at least three dozen other sites vis­ited by The Associated Press had no more than a few hun­dred vot­ers at any one time, with many vir­tu­ally empty.

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