Venezuelans stay away from polls to protest government vote
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.