Wed | Dec 12, 2018

International outcry grows over Venezuela vote

Published:Monday | May 21, 2018 | 11:02 PM
President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro.

A growing rostor of nations on Monday decried Venezuela's presidential election as a farce, with the United States leading the charge in announcing new financial restrictions aimed at further isolating President Nicol·s Maduro's embattled government.

Donald Trump signed an

order restricting the Venezuelan government's ability to liquidate assets.

And a coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including heavyweights like Brazil, Mexico

and Colombia, pledged to scale

back diplomatic relations with Venezuela and urge international

organisations not to issue the Venezuelan government any new credit unless it pertains to humanitarian aid.

Venezuela's fragmented opposition vowed to unify and push for a new presidential election in the last trimester

of 2018. Leaders said the Venezuelan people had delivered a silent

but powerful message by largely abstaining from Sunday's vote.

The election drew the lowest participation on record for a presidential

contest in decades.

"It's evident we are the resounding majority, those who want a new Venezuela," said Henrique Capriles, one

of Venezuela's most prominent opposition leaders and who himself had been barredfrom running in the presidential election.

The pro-government National Election Council announced Monday that with 98 per cent of polling stations reporting, Maduro had won more than 6.7 million votes over four million more than his closest competitor, Henri Falcon. That makes his victory the biggest percentage win over other candidates since Venezuela's 1958 election after the overthrow of dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez.

Analysts said the president managed to win by such a wide margin even as the country reels from an economic crisis and millions go hungry as a result of both state and opposition tactics.

Opposition leaders urged Venezuelans to stay away from the polls and refused to back Falcon. Meanwhile, the government mobilised state workers to get to the polls and socialist party volunteers set up 'Red Points' near voting centres, where many hoped that by presenting their government-issued 'Fatherland Card' they would get a

cash bonus.

VOWS TO FIGHT ON

Falcon told supporters he'd fight

on instead of joining a growing

list of antigovernment politicians choosing exile.

He was joined in his demand for a new election by third-place finisher Javier Bertucci, a TV evangelist who said he would accept the results, while partly blaming what he called a mistaken opposition boycott that led to a turnout of about 46 per cent the lowest

in a presidential race in two decades

of revolution.

Turnout in the three previous presidential elections averaged 79

per cent.

But Falcon said he nonetheless favours a new election soon and urged Maduro to do the courageous thing and desist from running. If Maduro presses forward, he warned, Venezuela will explode before his new six-year term is scheduled to begin in January.

AP