Venezuela Socialists celebrate new
Congress, pariah status looms
Send a link to a friend
[July 31, 2017]
By Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's ruling
Socialist Party has vowed that a newly elected legislative super-body
will begin passing laws quickly after a vote that was boycotted by the
opposition and slammed by foreign governments as an affront to
At least 10 people were killed in protests on Sunday by opponents of
unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro, who insists the new
"constituent assembly" will bring peace after four months of protests
that have killed more than 120 people.
The country's CNE elections authority said 8.1 million voters went to
the polls on Sunday. The opposition estimated only 2.5 million ballots
Maduro's critics characterized the election as a naked power grab meant
to keep him in office despite repudiation over an economic crisis that
has spurred malnutrition and left citizens struggling to obtain basic
products in the nation of about 30 million people.
The vote could exacerbate those economic woes if the United States - the
top market for Venezuelan oil - follows through on threats of economic
sanctions, and could sow doubts among investors about the legitimacy of
financing deals backed by the new assembly.
"The constituent assembly will start its work right away," Diosdado
Cabello, deputy head of the Socialist Party, told a post-election rally
in Caracas that featured singers, dancers and culminated after midnight
in the announcement of the official vote count and a fiery speech by
"Good morning Venezuela. We have a constituent assembly!" he shouted. "I
ask our countrymen to close ranks so that the assembly can be a place of
On Sunday, the U.S. State Department vowed "strong swift actions against
the architects of authoritarianism" that, according to U.S. officials,
will involve sanctions on the oil sector.
Allies of the Socialist Party won all 545 seats in the new assembly,
which will have the power to rewrite the constitution, dissolve state
institutions such as the opposition-run Congress, and sack dissident
[to top of second column]
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C) speaks during a meeting
with supporters in Caracas, Venezuela July 30, 2017. Picture taken
July 30, 2017. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS
"The constitutional assembly will not resolve any of the country's
problems, it just means more crisis," opposition leader Henrique
Capriles told a news conference, calling for a new round of protests
at noon on Monday.
"As of tomorrow, a new stage of the struggle begins," Capriles said.
Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which are
historically wary of siding with Washington in hemispheric disputes,
sharply condemned the vote.
Several refused to recognize the results, while Spain and Canada
joined in the condemnation.
Socialist party official Cabello hinted that the constitutional
assembly would hold sessions in the same legislative palace as the
existing Congress, which the opposition took over in a landslide
"They kick us out the door we come back through the window," he told
a news conference. "We never surrender. We insist and insist until
we win. Today we feel victorious."
The opposition organized an unofficial referendum over Maduro's plan
in July, when more than 7 million voters overwhelmingly rejected his
constituent assembly and voted in favor of early elections.
(Additional reporting by Fabian Cambero, Diego Ore and Hugh
Bronstein; Editing by Paul Tait)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.