Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro says the election Sunday for an assembly to rewrite the constitution was a resounding success. “The people have delivered the constitutional assembly,” the president said. “There were states of the country where voters came out challenging the bullet of the paramilitaries, crossing rivers ... they crossed mountains, but they voted for the Constitutional National Assembly.”
The opposition in the South American country said the unpopular measure would result in a socialist dictatorship and had called on Venezuelans to boycott the vote. Dozens of polling places in Caracas, the capital, were empty.
US plans strong, swift actions
Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said the election undermined “the Venezuelan people's right to self-determination.” Nauert said, “We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the National Constituent Assembly as a result of today's flawed election.”
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted Sunday that “Maduro's sham election is another step toward dictatorship. We won't accept an illegitimate government. The Venezuelan people and democracy will prevail.”
The Trump administration had already placed economic sanctions on a number of high-ranking members of Maduro's administration. A number of top U.S. lawmakers also have expressed their support for the citizens of Venezuela.
WATCH: Video of Caracas explosion
Venezuela's National Electoral Council said more than 8 million people, representing more than 41 percent of eligible voters, went to the polls Sunday to cast their ballots, despite demonstrations, roadblocks, and violence that left at least nine people dead. Members of the opposition, however, estimate only two to three million people voted.
Polls show more than 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the assembly.
Countries reject Sunday’s vote
A number of nations, including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama. Paraguay, Spain, Britain and the United Sates said they would not recognize Sunday's vote.
Maduro said, however, that he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Details on what is likely to be included in a new constitution are unclear. Maduro has said it is the only way to pull Venezuela out of its severe economic and social crisis and stop the seemingly endless violence.
Critics assert that only Maduro supporters were candidates, including first lady Cilia Flores, and the first vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello.
Early presidential elections sought
The opposition contends the 545-member constituent assembly would dissolve the opposition-controlled congress and turn Venezuela into a socialist dictatorship. Maduro opponents are demanding early presidential elections.
The drop in global energy prices together with political corruption have destroyed oil-rich Venezuela's economy.
Gasoline, medicine, and such basic staples as cooking oil, flour, and sugar are scarce. Many Venezuelans cross into neighboring Colombia and Brazil to buy food.
Maduro has blamed the country's woes on what he calls U.S. imperialism and its supporters inside Venezuela. He has warned against intervention by the Organization of American States, saying that would surely lead to civil war.