The Latest: After defeat, Venezuela opposition vows to unite
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Venezuela’s presidential election (all times local):
Venezuela’s two main opposition coalitions are pledging to unify the nation’s fragmented anti-government movement and push for a new election later this year.
Opposition leader Omar Barboza said Monday that the Broad Front and the United Democratic Roundtable will push for a “free, transparent” election with international observers in the last trimester of 2018.
He said both groups will announce new actions toward that goal in the days ahead.
Venezuela’s opposition rallied thousands to the streets in protest of President Nicolas Maduro’s increasingly autocratic rule last year but the movement has since fizzled.
Many Venezuelans are disillusioned about the prospect of change.
Opposition leaders pushed Venezuelans to abstain from voting in Sunday’s presidential election. Turnout was the lowest in a presidential race in decades.
Venezuela’s official election results give President Nicolas Maduro a larger percentage of the vote than any other candidate running for head of state since 1958.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Monday that Maduro’s victory was of “epic proportions” and called it “the biggest victory” by a candidate in Venezuela’s history.
The pro-government National Election Council says Maduro won 4 million votes more than independent challenger Henri Falcon.
That’s a bigger percentage win than any other candidate since Venezuela’s 1958 election following the overthrow of dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez.
However, low turnout means Maduro’s actual vote total was lower than when he only narrowly won election for the first time in 2013.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is calling Venezuela’s elections a “sham — neither free nor fair.” Pence says in a statement that the “illegitimate result of this fake process” is another blow to democratic traditions in the country.
Pence says the United States “will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues.”
Venezuelan officials have declared socialist leader Nicolas Maduro the winner of Sunday’s presidential election. Maduro’s leading challenger has questioned the legitimacy of the vote and called for new balloting.
Pence says the Maduro government must allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela “and must allow its people to be heard.”
The government of Spain is adding its voice to a chorus of international condemnation of Venezuela’s presidential election.
Officials in the European nation issued a statement on Monday promising to join its European counterparts to study “opportune measures” in response. It didn’t say what those measures might entail.
The European Union had already imposed sanctions on seven top Venezuelan officials including the head of the pro-government election council in January.
The United States and a coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas have also denounced the presidential election and promised new steps in response.
A senior U.S. official said Sunday the Trump administration might press ahead on threats to impose crippling oil sanctions.
A grouping of 14 countries from throughout the Americas is refusing to recognize the result of Venezuela’s disputed presidential election and urged diplomatic and financial action in response.
The Lima Group of nations decried the vote as failing to meet “international standards of a democratic, free, just and transparent process.”
The nations including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia vowed Monday to “reduce their level of diplomatic relations” with Venezuela in response.
The bloc called on authorities in each of their countries to notify the financial sector about the risks of engaging in business with the Venezuelan government. It also promised to push international and regional entities not issue Venezuela new credit.
The statement by the Lima Group adds to mounting international outcry over Sunday’s election. Official results gave President Nicolas Maduro a new six-year term.