23rd Aug 2017

Venezuela vote was 'doubtful', EU says

  • Maduro misrule led to food and medicine shirtages (Photo: Agencia de Noticias ANDES)

The EU has condemned Venezuela’s socialist government for trying to snatch new powers in fraudulent elections.

The European Commission said on Monday (31 July) it had “grave doubts as to whether the election result can be recognised”.

It also condemned “excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces” after at least 10 people lost their lives overnight.

Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, the successor to its late leader Hugo Chavez, called the vote in order to create a 545-man strong constituent assembly that is to rewrite the country’s basic laws.

Critics say the new constitution will be used to crush his political opponents.

They had already held mass protests against the regime over the past four months after misrule saw food and medical shortages as well as a collapse in law and order in the oil-rich country.

The Maduro authorities said 42.5 percent, or 8.1 million people, had voted on Sunday.

“It’s when imperialism challenges us that we prove ourselves worthy of the blood of the liberators that runs through the veins of men, women, children and young people,” Maduro said afterward, referring to imputed US plots against his administration.

The opposition said no more than 3 million people voted.

Torino Capital, a US investment bank, said its exit poll indicated that 3.6 million had voted, noting that there are 2.6 million civil servants in the country who were most likely coerced into taking part.

The Commission statement added that “A constituent assembly, elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances cannot be part of the solution. It has increased division and will further de-legitimise Venezuela's democratically elected institutions”.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president, went further by calling for regime change.

“It is very clear that the current regime is clinging to power. The will of the people is to change the regime. It is necessary to go to elections now”, he said.

Opposition leaders in Venezuela said 14 people were killed during the vote on Sunday.

The authorities said seven people, including a policeman, were killed by gunfire, while the BBC said “at least” 10 people lost their lives.

The BBC also said ballot stations looked empty on Sunday, corroborating the low turnout.

That death toll should be added to the 145 people killed and more than 2,000 wounded in street violence since March.

A Commission spokeswoman declined to comment whether the EU would impose sanctions on Caracas as per Spain’s request, but said the EU action service was working on a joint EU reaction.

Maduro said fellow socialists in Cuba and Bolivia had recognised the outcome of the constitutional vote and that it would start work in 72 hours time.

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