Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right. The “vote” in Venezuela yesterday went largely as expected, with the government of tyrant Nicolas Maduro claiming that upwards of eight million people voted to essentially wipe out the elected legislature and replace it with some window dressing which essentially makes him dictator of the country. This is a condition which could last for his entire life unless his people manage to find a way to oust him from office.
The vote was, of course, largely a sham. And as NBC News was reporting throughout the day, many of the polling places were frequently empty as Maduro’s many opponents boycotted the bogus proceedings.
Many polling stations were largely empty and more than 70 percent of the country was opposed to the vote in the first place, according to opinion surveys. Critics called it a naked power grab by President Nicolas Maduro.
As protesters clashed with police across the increasingly volatile country, only about 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, Delsa Solórzano, a prominent leader of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo, said at a news conference Sunday night.
The country’s election authorities, meanwhile, put the number of voters at 8.1 million, equaling a 41.5 percent turnout.
Noticing something of a disparity there? Nearly three quarters of the country was opposed to and sitting out the vote according to recent polls. Election monitors put the turnout at 9% (which actually might be on the low side) and yet Maduro’s “election officials” said it was over 40%. Even if that was a valid figure, that’s still pretty low for something this historic in terms of completely reshaping the country’s government structure.
CNN describes just how much power Maduro has now and also grimly notes that the body count went up as even more protesters – including two teenagers – were slaughtered by his militias.
The election will allow Maduro to replace Venezuela’s current legislative body — the National Assembly — with the new assembly, which would be made up 545 members, all nominated by his administration.
Deadly clashes between protesters and police marred Sunday’s vote, which followed weeks of violent street protests in which many people have been killed or injured. On Sunday the death toll rose sharply with at least six people — including two teenagers — killed at protests and a National Guard officer also reported dead by the attorney general’s office.
More than 8,089,000 people or about 41.53% of registered Venezuelan voters cast ballots Sunday, according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.
Now the rest of the world has to decide what, if anything, to do about it. As far as the United States goes, our U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley immediately declared the vote to be “a sham” and said that the United States “would not accept the results.” Our State Department put out a statement condemning the results as well and promising a “strong and swift response”, though in somewhat gentler terms. But what does that mean? More sanctions? I’m not sure Maduro particularly cares at this point.
Unless there’s a drastic (and probably violent) change in course, the stage seems to be set. Maduro has completed his takeover and will now be able to rule essentially as a dictator. He’ll probably gather the support of a few other authoritarian regimes, but even that will be limited until he can get his oil production back up. (Assuming he can manage it.) For now, Venezuela will likely become a hermit kingdom, much in the style of either Fidel Castro’s Cuba during the early years or North Korea’s present regime. And the real losers in all of this will be the Venezuelan people. They are currently starving while living on some of the richest farmland on the continent and their government is almost bankrupt while sitting atop some of the largest proven crude oil reserves in the world. These are the fruits of socialism. Watch closely if you are cheering for similar policies in the United States.