Venezuela heading for dictatorship after ‘sham’ election, warns US amid clashes

Up to 14 feared dead in clashes with security forces as many voters boycott poll that President Nicolás Maduro hails as a ‘vote for peace’

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Police on motorcycles ride through explosions as the constituent assembly election takes place. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

The United States has vowed to take strong and swift action against the “architects of authoritarianism” in Venezuela after protesters and security forces fought deadly street battles during voting for President Nicolás Maduro’s controversial constitutional assembly.

“The United States stands by the people of Venezuela, and their constitutional representatives, in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” the US State Department said in a statement. “We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the national constituent assembly as a result of today’s flawed election,” it said.

Many voters decided against taking part in an election the opposition said would turn the country into a full-fledged dictatorship.

As many as 14 people died in the protests, according to opposition leader Henrique Capriles, and the prosecutor’s office confirmed at least six people were killed by gunfire, including one national guardsman. Seven policemen were wounded in an explosion in the opposition stronghold neighbourhood of Altamira.

However, the leader of the ruling socialist party, Jorge Rodriguez, said there was “not one death related to the voting process today”, underscoring the contrasting versions of the day presented by the two clashing sides.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted: “Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship.”

Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship. We won’t accept an illegit govt. The Venezuelan ppl & democracy will prevail.

An official report of a “positive” election process by the National Electoral Council contrasted with continued reports of clashes and widespread abstention as people either heeded opposition calls for a boycott or feared getting caught up in street clashes.

The council extended voting for one hour, claiming many who had wanted to cast
their vote earlier had been unable to do so.

Maduro was among the first to vote shortly after polls opened at 6am. “The first vote for peace,” he said afterwards. But throughout the day, turnout at polling stations was low for the election of 545 members of an assembly that would be tasked with rewriting the constitution and would have sweeping powers to reform or dissolve other state institutions, including the opposition controlled parliament.

A queue outside a polling station in Caracas.
 A queue outside a polling station in Caracas. Photograph: Christian Veron/Reuters

In the working-class district of Petare, where many residents said they had been threatened with losing government subsidies or jobs if they did not vote, few people turned out to vote. But at the Poliedro sporting arena, where Caracas residents who were unable to reach their designated polling centre were permitted to cast their votes, voters described huge crowds standing in line. For Maria Alejandra Avila, a lawyer , the election was a manifestation of “the self–determination of a free and sovereign people”.

The constituent assembly has been heavily criticised by foreign government including from the United States, the UK and neighbouring Colombia. On Sunday, Peru and Argentina said they would not recognise the outcome of the vote.

Security forces blocked protesters from gathering for a planned mass demonstration using teargas to disperse the crowd, witnesses said. A small group of protesters blocked access to some of the voting places.

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One Response to “Venezuela heading for dictatorship after ‘sham’ election, warns US amid clashes”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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