Maduro to swear in new assembly as vote turnout questioned

Laura Christensen
August 4, 2017

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said results recorded by his systems and those reported by Venezuela's National Electoral Council indicate "without any doubt" that the official turnout figure of more than 8 million voters was manipulated.

The opposition had boycotted the election, calling it fraudulent, and said the National Constituent Assembly will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution.

"Why are they sanctioning me?" The sanctions also make the targeted officials more dependent on the Maduro regime, as Smilde points out, and less likely to undermine it.

In that line, he charged that the objective of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Donald Trump administration was to prevent the voting on the Constituent on July 30.

According to the electoral authority, more than 40 percent of the 20-million-strong electorate voted last Sunday in the election appointing the 545-member Constituent Assembly.

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.

More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between anti-government activists and riot police in Caracas, Venezuela's capital, since demonstrations began in April.

Turnout is seen as crucial in the vote.

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Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said the re-arrests were aimed at "frightening us and demoralising us". Even Andres Izarra, a cabinet minister for Chavez, criticized Sundays elections, tweeting: “Smartmatic confirms there was a trap in the (Constituent) election.”.

Maduro has used corrupt courts to sideline the opposition-run parliament, and is in the process of setting up a phony "constituent assembly" of loyalists to replace it.

The election of the new super-assembly, with candidates selected from the ruling party, drew global condemnation as a power grab by the unpopular Maduro, whose leftist government is beset by violent street protests and an economy on the brink of collapse.

Along with the US, the European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain and Britain criticized Sunday's vote. "They saw it all", said Garcia, who broke away from Maduro's government in 2015 though maintains contact with some former colleagues. However, imposing sanctions on a head of state is rare and can be symbolically powerful, leading other countries to similarly shun such a leader. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group, argued in a July 6 letter that sanctions could have "a significant negative effect on US refiners, consumers and our nation's economy". Other heads of state now subject to US sanctions include Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Maduro also announced a one-day delay in the assembly's installation, saying it would convene on Friday instead of Thursday as planned, in order to "organize it well in peace and tranquility". Venezuela's economic issues are deep seated, but have been masked by a high oil price; since the price for crude has collapsed, so too has the Venezuelan economy.

The election of the legislative super-body has been decried by critics as illegitimate and created to give the unpopular government of President Nicolas Maduro powers to rewrite the constitution and sideline the opposition-led congress.

While the election solidified Maduro's power, members of the opposition are still prepared to fight.

Other reports by My Hot News

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