Venezuela voted to elect a constituent assembly on July 30. The new body will have the power to bypass the opposition-dominated national assembly, potentially eliminating most checks and balances on the government.
The opposition, as well as numerous foreign governments, condemned the vote (paywall); one independent exit poll suggested the turnout was less than half of the 40% what the government claimed, and many of those voters may have been government workers. Clashes between protestors and troops left at least 10 dead, on top of more than a hundred who have died in four months of protest leading up to the vote.
Yet Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, who called the elections, hailed them as a victory for the people. Some pictures from the day tell a different story.
Maduro praised Venezuelans in a post-electoral speech. “The people of Venezuela have demonstrated that when we are challenged by destiny… is when we prove the worth of the liberators’ blood that runs through our veins.” Voters who showed up to the polls appeared less sanguine.
Maduro, who deployed extra security forces the day of the election, downplayed the protests. When the armed forces show up “there are no terrorists with rheumatism,” he said. “They flee.” Pictures show opponents put up a fight.
Maduro said the election had “the force of the legitimacy of a people that heroically, in war conditions, came out to vote to say they want peace.” The government’s crackdown on opponents, however, suggests the opposite.
The president, who barred independent observers from polling stations, called Venezuela’s electoral system the best in the world. “The most transparent, the most audited, before, during, and after.” But independent observers cited various irregularities (Spanish), including skipping audits to test the system and not marking people’s fingers with indelible ink to prevent them from voting again.
Maduro has said a constituent assembly is necessary to stabilize the country: “Let’s close ranks so the national constituent assembly is a space of national dialogue for all Venezuelans, of honest people who want peace.” Hard to imagine peaceful dialogue after scenes like this before and during the vote.
Maduro’s overall assessment: “What we saw today is truly admirable.”