At least 10 protesters killed during demonstrations against rewriting constitution
Sunday’s elections in Venezuela were condemned as a sham, even by countries that had formerly been aligned with the leftist ideology espoused by recent leaders in Caracas.
And, as might have been expected, the vote was marred by violence, including the assassination of one of the candidates Saturday night and the deaths of at least 10 protesters on Sunday, including two teenaged boys. A police officer was shot in front of a school in Táchira, and a 43-year-old man was killed in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara State, when a bullet pierced his head, the New York Times reported.
By evening, electoral officials announced the winners of the vote, a list of leftist stalwarts including Diosdado Cabello, a powerful politician who once participated in a failed coup attempt, and Cilia Flores, Mr. Maduro’s wife. The result effectively liquidates the Venezuelan political opposition and leaves the left with complete control over a country that remains deeply divided.
There may be a ray of hope for the opposition, however: although the vote predictably elected mostly allies of President Nicolas Maduro to an assembly that will rewrite Venezuela’s constitution, the body could conceivably remove Maduro himself from power.
“The powers of the new assembly members will be so vast that they could possibly remove Mr. Maduro from office, some analysts noted, ending a presidency that has been deeply unpopular, even among many leftists,” the Times reported.
It was Maduro who had ordered the rewriting of Venezuela’s Constitution. A rewrite or the Constitution would have the power to dissolve the National Assembly, an opposition-heavy body of lawmakers, said National Public Radio. Although there was no option for voters to formally disagree with Maduro’s plan, only to elect members of the body who would carry out the process, the opposition held a symbolic vote recently, in which 98% of seven million voters opposed rewriting the country’s ruling document.
Nikki R. Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the vote a “sham election” and “another step toward dictatorship.” She said the United States would not accept an illegitimate government in Caracas. The Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, Reuters reported Monday. The measures are not expected to include a ban on oil shipments to the U.S., but could block sale of lighter U.S. crude that Venezuela mixes with its heavy crude and then exports, unnamed officials told Reuters. Other options reportedly under discussion include targeting senior Venezuelan officials, and various measures to restrict access by the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA to the U.S. banking system.
The State Department released a statement Sunday, condemning the election: “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,” department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.