Maduro claims vote win, opposition vows protests

CARACAS (City News) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory Monday in an internationally criticized election to pick a new assembly to rewrite the constitution, but the opposition vowed to keep protesting despite deadly clashes.

Ten people were killed in a wave of bloodshed that swept Venezuela Sunday as Maduro defied an opposition boycott and international condemnation — including the threat of new US sanctions — to hold elections for a powerful new “Constituent Assembly.”

Protesters attacked polling stations and barricaded streets around the country, drawing a bloody response from security forces, who opened fire with live ammunition in some cases.

Despite the boycott and the unrest, the head of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena — one of 13 Maduro allies already hit by US sanctions — said there had been “extraordinary turnout” of more than eight million voters, 41.5 percent of the electorate.

In a speech to hundreds of supporters in central Caracas, Maduro hailed it as a win.

“We have a Constituent Assembly,” he said.

“It is the biggest vote the revolution has ever scored in its 18-year history,” he said, referring to the year his late mentor, Hugo Chavez, came to power.

The socialist president is gambling his four-year rule on the 545-member assembly, which will be empowered to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress and rewrite the constitution.

But the unrest fueled fears that his insistence on convening the assembly — despite months of demonstrations — would only plunge the country deeper into chaos.

There was blistering international condemnation of the vote, led by Washington.

“The United States condemns the elections… for the National Constituent Assembly, which is designed to replace the legitimately elected National Assembly and undermine the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

It threatened further “strong and swift” sanctions on Maduro’s government.

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