Venezuela's electoral council declared President Nicolas Maduro the winner Sunday night of a presidential election boycotted by many opponents and marred by claims of irregularities. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Maduro had 68 percent of the vote versus 21 percent for the main opposition candidate allowed to run, Henri Falcon. Turnout was just over 46 percent, despite extended polling hours, electoral authorities said; The Associated Press estimated that about 40 percent of voters participated, while the opposition put the figure at closer to 30 percent. The U.S. said earlier Sunday that it won't accept the results of the election.
Falcon, a former governor who defected from Maduro's Socialist Party in 2010, blamed the opposition boycott for his low numbers but also rejected the results, saying Maduro's victory "without any doubt lacks legitimacy and we categorically refuse to recognize this process." He specifically pointed to the 13,000 pro-government "red spots" set up near voting stations where poor Venezuelans were encouraged to scan their "fatherland cards" — which entitle them to government benefits — for a chance to to win a "prize." A third candidate, evangelical pastor Javier Bertucci, also slammed voting irregularities and, like Falcon and the opposition coalition, urged a new election.
Maduro declared victory, embarking on a second six-year term. Oil-rich Venezuela is five years into a brutal recession with annual inflation of 19,000 percent and rampant shortages of food and medicine. Maduro has stacked the Supreme Court and replaced the opposition-controlled National Assembly with a second legislature made up of supporters. That National Constituent Assembly had pushed up the presidential election, originally scheduled for December. The two most popular opposition candidates were barred from running and other potential candidates fled Venezuela. Peter Weber
Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, has been subject to hyperinflation for months, with shopkeepers reportedly weighing bundles of near-worthless bills rather than counting them. The bolivar's value changes so often now, Reuters reports, that Venezuelans increasingly refuse to accept their own country's money in a desperate bid to retain real purchasing power.
In place of the bolivar, the dollar is demanded. "I can't think in bolivars anymore, because you have to give a different price every hour," a jeweler named Yoselin Aguirre told Reuters. "To survive, you have to dollarize," he added, which is why his prices are now tied to the dollar.
Currency exchange limits, low wages, a devastated economy, and an artificial exchange rate set by the socialist Maduro government make dollars hard to come by for most Venezuelans. The official exchange rate is 10 bolivars to one dollar, but on the black market it's more like 110,000 to one. So useless are the low-denomination bolivar bills that Reuters describes them being used as Christmas decorations in a "grim festive joke" for a holiday this year marked by deadly hunger.
Venezuelan soldiers shot and killed two armed attackers who stormed into a military base on Sunday in the city of Valencia, President Nicolas Maduro said.
About 20 armed men — some civilians, a few soldiers — entered the base, and went straight to where the weapons were stored; Socialist party officials said eight were arrested, including at least three members of the military, while the rest escaped with weapons. Anti-government protesters are angry over Maduro move on Friday to install a controversial Constituent Assembly, which backs him and has the power to dissolve all government bodies. Anti-government protests have been raging across Venezuela for four months, with the opposition speaking out against Maduro and the country's recession, inflation, and food and medicine shortages. Catherine Garcia
A Venezuelan military base was subject to a "terrorist" attack late Saturday night, said Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela's ruling party and a loyalist of the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.
However, video posted on social media before the incident suggests it may have been a coup attempt instead, as the clip shows members of a Venezuelan army unit demanding "the immediate formation of a transition government." "This is not a coup d'etat," the speaker says. "This is a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction."
Meanwhile, Venezuela's new Constitutional Assembly on Saturday ousted the nation's top prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, sending guards in riot gear to keep her from her office. Ortega, a Maduro critic, was replaced by one of his supporters.
The Constitutional Assembly was created a week ago under a Maduro proposal to dissolve the country's former legislature, which was dominated by his opposition. The vote that installed the new legislature is under investigation, as independent polling suggests the Maduro government massively inflated turnout numbers and rigged the election in its favor.
All this political unrest comes as Venezuela continues to suffer a major economic crisis under Maduro's regime; food shortages are serious and inflation is high. Read The Week's explanation of the country's descent into chaos. Bonnie Kristian
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to install the country's highly controversial constituent assembly on Friday, which will have more power than any other branch of government.
The 545 delegates were elected on Sunday, but because the opposition boycotted the election, most are pro-Maduro. Maduro has already said the assembly will take away constitutional immunity from opposition lawmakers and target Luisa Ortega Diaz, the country's chief prosecutor, by putting the office in a state of emergency and restructuring it; she has already filed a court order to get the assembly's installation stopped, and has ordered prosecutors to investigate allegations of election tampering, The Associated Press reports.
Opposition leaders have called for protests on Friday, and several lawmakers have said they won't step aside quietly. "The only way they'll get us out of here is by killing us," said Freddy Guevara, first vice president of the National Assembly. "They will never have the seat that the people of Venezuela gave us." Catherine Garcia
Early Tuesday, Venezuela's intelligence service, Sebin, raided the homes of two leading opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, and took them away, according to statements and video posted online by López's wife and Ledezma's daughter. Both men were under house arrest for their role in 2014 anti-government protests, and they were presumably re-arrested over recent protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, including one on Sunday in which at least 10 people were killed. Both López, the 46-year-old founder of the People's Will party (pictured), and Ledezma, a 62-year-old former Caracas mayor, made recent videos encouraging protest.
Maduro held a vote on Sunday to create a powerful constitutional assembly with the authority to rewrite the constitution in his favor, bar gubernatorial candidates, and disband any branch of government deemed insufficiently loyal, likely starting with the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly. The National Electoral Council said the new assembly was approved amid a robust turnout of 8.1 million people, despite the opposition boycott, Maduro's terrible poll numbers, and Venezuela's terrible economy and food shortages; an outside exit poll put voter turnout at 3.6 million. The U.S., Europe, and most Latin American countries called the vote a sham, and the U.S. slapped sanctions on Maduro. Peter Weber
As many as 14 people were killed Sunday in Venezuela during violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro's election to create a constitutional assembly.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said as many as 14 people died during demonstrations, while the prosecutor's office confirmed gunfire killed at least six people, including a national guardsman. Many Venezuelans stayed away from the polls, calling the election a sham. The assembly would rewrite the constitution and have nearly unlimited powers to dissolve institutions like the parliament, now controlled by the opposition. The opposition believes the assembly would turn the country into a dictatorship, and the election is being criticized by many foreign governments as being illegal. Catherine Garcia
Venezuelans vote Sunday on a proposal from the widely unpopular President Nicolas Maduro to create a new legislative body called the Constituent Assembly and dissolve the National Assembly, which is dominated by Maduro's opposition.
Because opposition leaders have called for a boycott of what they consider an illegitimate vote, Maduro's plan to consolidate his power is expected to pass. The ballot comes after months of unrest over massive shortages of basic foods and goods thanks to the Maduro government's socialist policies.
President Trump recently issued targeted sanctions against pro-Maduro Venezuelan politicians and has threatened "strong and swift economic action" against Maduro if the Constituent Assembly is created. Mexico, Colombia, and Panama sanctioned the same leaders, and the Organization of American States denounced Sunday's vote. Bonnie Kristian