Maduro says company's vote claim part of United States plot

Friday, 04 Aug, 2017

Venezuela's intelligence service hauled two prominent opposition leaders back to prison on Tuesday, triggering worldwide outcry as embattled President Nicolas Maduro moved to shore up his power after an election widely denounced as a sham. He had been convicted of instigating violence during protests against Maduro in 2014 that left 43 people dead.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration was "evaluating all of our policy options as to what can we do to create a change of conditions where either Maduro decides he doesn't have a future, and wants to leave of his own accord, or we can return the government processes back to their constitution".

Ledezma, 62, was arrested in February 2015 on charges of conspiracy and racketeering and was placed under house arrest three months later for health reasons.

Surveys by polling firm Datanalisis showed more than 70% of Venezuelans opposed the new assembly. But the sanctions would hurt us too, because Venezuela is third in oil exports to the United States, behind Saudi Arabia and Canada. "But I think the White House realizes the big potential impact here, so they're trying to come up with potential remedies". He said dictators do not hold elections, invoke the constitution and work for peace to avoid civil war.

However, old allies Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russian Federation stood by Maduro, who shrugged off mass protests and a previous round of United States sanctions on some of his officials to see through the election. "I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever".

Cuba, Venezuela's closest ally, charged that "a well-organised worldwide operation was under way, led from Washington, with the support of the OAS chief, aimed at silencing the voice of the Venezuelan people, and forcing them into submission with attacks and economic sanctions".

McCoy also said that so far the Venezuelan military has supported Maduro. It was, moreover, to demonstrate Thursday against the installation of the constituent Assembly composed of 545 members. It says the official figures from the election were tampered with to make turnout appear greater than it was.

Speaking at a news briefing in London, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said the results of Sunday's poll were off by at least one million.

The absence of auditors, the company said, allowed for a manipulation of the turnout numbers. As Smartmatic pointed out, the CNE relaxed the auditing controls for this crucial election doing away with 14 different controls, including indelible ink, opposition witnesses, worldwide observers, physical (paper) ballots, etc. Candidates were chosen from groups affiliated with the government of Nicolas Maduro and government supporters were given extra votes in their occupational areas.

At least 123 people have died since April in ongoing anti-Maduro protests.

If the USA later decides to block Venezuelan imports, it could seek to blunt price impacts by releasing oil from an emergency stockpile, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"The Constituent Assembly has aggravated the crisis in Venezuela and threatens to deteriorate other legitimate institutions provided by the Constitution, such as the national assembly", said the Spanish newspaper El País. "I feel proud to be sanctioned, Mister Imperialist Donald Trump". Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela's inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves. All candidates offered were Maduro supporters - one has even been married to the president since 2013.

Asked about the danger of a civil war in Venezuela, Garces noted that only a foreign intervention might propitiate that scenario.