Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the election for a new constitutional assembly was a victory for his government. Opponents of the election called the voting a fraud.
Government officials said more than 8 million people voted in Sunday’s election to choose a new legislature to rewrite the constitution. This represented more than 41 percent of voters, according to Venezuela's National Electoral Council.
Maduro said the official results proved he has the popular support needed to carry out his political policies. In a speech to supporters, he called the election "the biggest vote the revolution has ever scored in its 18-year history." He was referring to when the late president Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.
Opposition leaders estimated the actual number of voters at about 2.5 million. Polls had shown more than 70 percent of Venezuelans opposed the constitutional assembly. The opposition urged people to boycott the vote, saying it would be rigged for Maduro’s ruling socialist party.
Many nations had called on Maduro to cancel the election, fearing creation of the 545-member assembly would worsen the political situation and increase violence. Venezuela’s opposition says the legislative body gives Maduro nearly unlimited powers and will result in a socialist dictatorship.
The U.S. government criticized the vote. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the “flawed” election took away the “people's right to self-determination.” She added that the U.S. would move forward with “strong and swift” economic actions against Maduro’s government.
A number of other governments also protested the election and said they would not recognize the results. These included Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the European Union representing 28 nations.
During the voting, Venezuelan officials reported 10 deaths from clashes between protesters and police. Seven police officers were injured in an explosion that went off as they drove past a street blockade in eastern Caracas.
Anti-government unrest in the months leading up to the election has left more than 120 people dead and nearly 2,000 wounded.
Maduro has said a new constitution is the only way to end such violence. The new assembly is expected to begin governing within a week.
Opposition leaders have called for more street demonstrations to protest the results. Large protests held before the vote were not successful in pressuring the government to back down.
Political observers note that Maduro currently enjoys the loyalty of the country’s armed forces, making it more difficult for the opposition movement to cause real change.
Geoff Ramsey is a researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America. He told VOA the military support goes back many years to the previous Chavez government. He said army commanders have been given many benefits in exchange for their loyalty, in a system that continues today.
However, Ramsey added that this could change in the future if the level of Maduro’s repression creates a clear division within the armed forces.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for Learning English based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
fraud – n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person
rigged – adj. influenced in a dishonest way to get a desired result
flawed – adj. having a mistake, fault or weakness
self-determination – n. right of people to choose the form of government they desire
swift – adj. quick, fast
benefit – n. something that helps or gives an advantage