The Cable

Maduro Claims Victory, But Opposition Claims Voter Fraud

Venezuela vote for a Constituent Assembly sparks unrest, draws criticism

Members of the Venezuelan community in Argentina protest against the election for a "Constituent Assembly", in Buenos Aires on July 30, 2017 as Venezuela holds 
A controversial vote in Venezuela championed by beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro sparked an escalation of deadly violence, with half a dozen people reported killed and troops and protesters attacking each other in Caracas and elsewhere. / AFP PHOTO / ALEJANDRO PAGNI        (Photo credit should read ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Venezuelan community in Argentina protest against the election for a "Constituent Assembly", in Buenos Aires on July 30, 2017 as Venezuela holds A controversial vote in Venezuela championed by beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro sparked an escalation of deadly violence, with half a dozen people reported killed and troops and protesters attacking each other in Caracas and elsewhere. / AFP PHOTO / ALEJANDRO PAGNI (Photo credit should read ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuela remains divided after Sunday’s vote to pick the members of the Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the country’s constitution. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed victory, while the opposition says the election was a fraud.

“We have a Constituent Assembly,” Maduro said in his claim to victory, according to CNN. “I said, come hell or high water — and hell and high water came — and the Constituent Assembly arrived from the hand of the people, from its conscience.”

However, the legitimacy of this vote is disputed both within Venezuela and abroad. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Spain all rejected the results of the election.

Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador the the United Nations told the New York Times it that it was “a sham election,” and the United States reinforced its threats of sanctions to the Venezuelan economy.

The opposition claims that the election is illegitimate, arguing that normal procedures to prevent voter fraud, such as marking voters’ fingers with indelible ink to prevent multiple trips to the ballot box, were not followed. Critics also noted the ballot offered no option to reject the creation of the Constituent Assembly; it simply asked voters to choose the members.

The election comes amid mass protests, and just days after the United States threatened sanctions against President Maduro. At least 10 people died in protests on Sunday, and the opposition has called for continued protests Monday.

By Sunday night, electoral officials claimed that the vote was 41.5 percent for a Constituent Assembly, but the opposition said that that 88 percent of voters abstained from voting, according to the BBC. Those elected to the Constituent Assembly included Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, and several close Maduro confidants.

The Constituent Assembly is widely regarded as part of a return to the policies of Hugo Chávez, the former president and mentor to Maduro. In the past three months, Maduro has amassed power by removing dissenting voices from the government.

A request for a comment from the Venezuelan embassy was not returned; the voice mailbox of its press office was full.

Photo credit: ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/Getty Images

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