Venezuela in turmoil following a contentious vote over the weekend which critics say is an attempt by President Nicolás Maduro to consolidate power. A newly-elected body, consisting mostly of Maduro allies and even his wife, will be given the ability to dissolve state institutions and possibly rewrite the constitution.

40 countries have stated they will not recognize the new assembly, while the country’s opposition has called for mass protests Thursday, in an attempt to prevent the installation of the new assembly.

-Doubts also surfacing on voter turnout, with the head of a company providing electronic voting technology to Venezuela since 2004 suggesting the outcome stated by Venezuela’s government differs from the electronic count by a million votes.  Venezuela’s electoral council president has suggested over 8 million people voted while opposition members and independent analysts put the total number from between 2 to 4 million.

More than 120 people have died this year in clashes protesting the Venezuelan president’s rule, including a candidate for the assembly who was killed the night of the election. Maduro has suggested the constitution needs to “restore peace” to the country.

Best Reads

Venezuela vote marred by violence, including candidate’s death [NY Times].

Maduro wants to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. That’s rocket fuel on the fire [Washington Post].

Reality

While ‘Chavistas’ – who support the legacy of Venezuela’s late President (dictator) Hugo Chavez, continue to support his successor Maduro, the country’s opposition has accused him of mismanaging the economy and exploiting Venezuela’s poor. The country’s collapsing economy has been labeled one of the worst in the world.

U.S. response

-The U.S. has condemned the vote as a “sham” and “step towards dictatorship” and also voiced concern over the re-arrest of two high profile opposition figures, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma – both only recently released to house arrest following ‘prior convictions.’

-The Trump administration has also imposed fresh sanctions on Maduro, freezing assets under U.S. jurisdiction and forbidding U.S. citizens from engaging in business with him, while also reportedly considering sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry

-Families of U.S. diplomats have also been ordered to leave Venezuela. The British government has done the same.