Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has claimed victory for ‘the revolution’ in a controversial election a day after ten were killed in a wave of protests.
Violence swept the country on Sunday as Maduro, 54, defied international condemnation to hold elections for a powerful new ‘Constituent Assembly’.
Authorities later announced an ‘extraordinary turnout’ of more than eight million voters, 41.5 per cent of the electorate, before the president hailed the figure as an election win.
In a speech to hundreds of supporters in central Caracas, Maduro said: ‘We have a Constituent Assembly.
‘It is the biggest vote the revolution has ever scored in its 18-year history,’ he added, referring to the year his late mentor, Hugo Chavez, came to power.
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.
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.
The election was also condemned by the European Union, Canada and Latin American powers including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.