Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory Monday in an internationally criticized election for an assembly to rewrite the constitution, but the opposition cried fraud and vowed to keep protesting despite a deadly crackdown.
Ten people were killed in a wave of bloodshed that swept Venezuela on 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 slapped with sanctions by US President Donald Trump’s administration — said there had been “extraordinary turnout” of more than eight million voters, 41.5 percent of the electorate.
Members of the new assembly will include his wife Cilia Flores, his pugnacious right-hand man Diosdado Cabello, and other staunch allies.
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.
Maduro has banned protests over the vote, threatening prison terms of up to 10 years.
Prosecutors said 10 people were killed in violence around the vote, bringing the death toll in four months of protests to more than 120 people.
Those killed included a candidate for the new assembly, a regional opposition leader, two teenage protesters and a soldier in the western state of Tachira, which saw some of the worst violence.
In eastern Caracas, seven police were wounded when an improvised explosive targeted their motorcycle convoy.
National guard troops used armored vehicles, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters blocking roads in the capital and other cities.