Two days after controversial new assembly elections in Venezuela, the country is more divided than ever, with opposition forces vowing to continue their fight against President Nicolas Maduro and the leader claiming a victory that grants him practically unlimited power.
Days of bloodshed in the lead up to the vote saw at least 10 people lose their lives, and a march to honour the dead is scheduled for Wednesday.
Economist Luis Vicente León said: “What Maduro has done is become more radical; he has hardened his political position with his triumph in the Constituent Assembly elections, and he has utilized the Constituent Assembly as a threat against his adversaries.”
Public anger is high. Just a few days ago many of Caracas’ streets were barricaded by demonstrators and the air was filled with the sound of explosions and gunfire.
One of Maduro’s harshest critics comes from within his own Socialist Party, state prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who criticised Maduro for heavy-handed tactics against protesters.
She said the new assembly will put “absolute power” in the hands of a minority certain to abolish essential political rights like the freedom of expression.
Diaz, a longtime government loyalist who broke with Maduro in march, said: “We have a crime against humanity before us which has been committed in a sustained and systematic way since the unconstitutional call for the creation of the presidential Constituent Assembly was made.”
We don’t use protestors to describe people fighting dictatorship in Venezuela. Country is in REBELLION against
NicolasMaduro</a> <a href="https://t.co/WQxcQ0PAZQ">pic.twitter.com/WQxcQ0PAZQ</a></p>— Michael Welling (WellingMichael) 30 July 2017
Maduro has brushed off claims of a power grab, saying that the new assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution and override congress, is Venezuela’s only chance for peace.
Government officials claimed a 41 percent turnout at the polling stations, however the opposition insisted this was nowhere near accurate.
The international community has largely condemned the elections as a “sham,” and sanctions against the country threaten to plunge its already floundering economy into the abyss.