By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – The Venezuelan government highlighted today the “tranquility” in which the election of a Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolas Maduro took place, while the opposition described it as a “failure” of the government, in a day full of protests and a number of dead.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela, announced that the electoral participation has been 41.53 percent (more than 8 million people) in the election of the 545 members of the Constituent Assembly, a figure sharply questioned by the opposition.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro celebrated the election results for the Constituent Assembly by highlighting the high turnout. “It’s the biggest vote the Bolivarian revolution has had in 18 years.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Henrique Capriles reported that 16 people had died in the day from the repression of the security forces against demonstrations. Opposition representative Henry Ramos Allup said about 2.4 million people participated in the process, accounting for only 12.4 percent of the registered voters.
Among the elected members are the wife of President Maduro, Cilia Flores, and the second man of Chavismo, Diosdado Cabello.
The main rector of the National Electoral Council, Sandra Oblitas, said that the process had a “normal” flow of voters and announced the decision to extend the vote for at least one hour to allow those still waiting to vote, after delays caused by opposition acts.
The regions of Táchira and Merida, in the west of the country, were the most affected by the demonstrations, where polling stations and electoral material was destroyed.
In Caracas, law enforcement officials prevented an opposition rally on a motorway in the east of the city, after shooting off tearing gas at six points along the march.
“Those of us who want change in the country are not celebrating after a campaign and voting day of murders and repression. This has been a day stained with the lives of human beings and by abstention, “added Henrique Capriles.
Maduro maintains that the call to the Constituent Assembly aims to get the country out of the crisis and restore peace after nearly four months of protests that have left more than a hundred dead.
The opposition warned that one of the first measures to be taken by the Constituent Assembly, which will have plenipotentiary powers, will be to dissolve the National Assembly (Congress), whose opposition majority has spearheaded protests against the government, as well as dismissing Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, the most prominent institutional voice against the Maduro project.
The opposition coalition said the Constituent Assembly will not solve any of the country’s problems and that Maduro pushed it through to retain power beyond 2018, by the time the presidential elections are scheduled.
During the day, the government received more warnings from countries that will ignore the Constituent Assembly, in addition to the sanctions that the United States applied to 13 of its officials. Argentina and Peru announced that they will ignore today’s results because they consider that they arise from an “illegitimate” process.