The opposition boycotted the election and said the vote represents a “fraud.” The poll, which was slammed by international observers, was marked by a low voter turnout of just 31%.

President Nicolas Maduro won total control over the country’s legislature, the National Assembly (AN), and fully consolidated his regime’s grip on power in the country following Sunday’s parliamentary election.

Maduro’s party claimed almost 68% of the vote, in an election which was mostly boycotted by the opposition. The National Assembly was the last institution in the country not yet headed by Maduro. The opposition, parts of which participated in the election despite the opposition’s call for a boycott, received 18% of the vote.

Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and allied parties captured 67 seats in the National Assembly, said Indira Alfonzo, president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.

International observers like the EU and the Organization of American States (OAS) refused to send observers to Sunday’s election and said the conditions for a democratic process in Venezuela do not currently exist.

The country’s opposition, led by the current AN president and Maduro foe Juan Guaido, said the vote represents “a fraud.”

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Empty fridges

    Venezuela had its highest inflation rates ever in 2018: 65,374%. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) marked it even higher, at 1,370,000%. A lack of hard currency meant precious few items could be imported. Soaring prices have made it impossible for most Venezuelans to shop at the supermarket.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Feeding the poor

    Only those who can provide their own plate or bowl get something to eat here because even aid organizations cannot afford disposable tableware. The once wealthy country has been suffering a massive supply crisis for years and is now short on everything from food and medicine to everyday items like soap and diapers.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Hungry children

    Children in Caracas hold out their hands as aid organizations and church groups distribute food. Many haven’t eaten for days. Statistics compiled for a study at the Catholic Andres Bello National University (UNAB) in Chile say 96% of Venezuelan households live in poverty, and 64% in extreme poverty. Few families in the country can afford meat, fish, eggs, fruits or vegetables.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Health care system on the verge of collapse

    People needing hospitalization, such as here at San Juan de Dios Hospital in Caracas, have to pay for their own medicine and medical instruments like catheters and syringes. More than one-third of Venezuela’s 66,000 registered doctors have left the country. Overall, the ranks of medical personnel have been in decline, too, pushing the country’s health care system to the verge of collapse.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Building with mud and wood

    A child plays in a Bahareque house made of sticks and mud, a building technique dating back to pre-Columbian times and now popular once again due to extreme poverty in the country’s rural regions. Such houses have no plumbing or electricity.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    No electricity

    Blackouts regularly paralyze the country — opposition politicians say lack of investment as well as corruption and poor maintenance of power plants are to blame for the dire situation. The crisis has also prompted the government to take drastic measures in hopes of saving energy. Experiments with a two-day work week for government employees have done little to help so far.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Life on the street

    When the electricity goes out, the climate can become unbearable — air conditioners are useless. Life moves out onto the streets, like here in Maracaibo. Regional and even national blackouts have become common across Venezuela over the past several years. President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly blamed the outages on acts of infrastructure sabotage committed by the country’s enemies.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Acute lack of water

    The water supply in Valencia’s Santa Rosa district has collapsed. Now, people there bathe and wash themselves in puddles on the side of the road. There is no drinking water in the district.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    A river full of sewage

    These days the only things flowing into the Guaire River are sewage and toxic chemicals. Electricity and water in Venezuela are precariously interconnected: Lack of electricity and maintenance has led to cracks in dams, thus leading to water loss. That has meant less power for the country’s hydroelectricity plants, leading to yet more blackouts in what has become a vicious circle.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Search for potable water

    A resident of the state of Carabobo pushes a canister through the streets of Guacara in hopes of finding drinking water. Some places in Venezuela only have running water for a couple of hours a week. Most families fill up anything they can to have drinking water the next time supplies are shut down.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Contaminated waters

    Venezuelans are swimming in oil, but not in a good way. Fishers floating in inner tubes from tires cast their nets into Lake Maracaibo, even though it’s contaminated with oil. The coast has also been affected. Recently, an oil pipeline leak and an accident at a refinery near Puerto Cabello in the northwest caused some 20,000 barrels of crude oil to be pumped into the ocean.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    ‘The people need gas’

    Cars have been lined up waiting for fuel at a Guacara gas station for more than two weeks. Venezuela has been forced to import its gasoline from Iran because its own system is so decrepit that it can barely even pump oil. Ten years ago, Venezuela was pumping some 2.3 million barrels a day. Now it is pumping less than half of that.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Collapsed energy supply

    In Caracas, people wait in the streets with empty propane tanks in hopes of being able to fill them one day. Since electricity and gasoline have become scarce in Venezuela, many residents have turned to natural gas. Demand has in turn made it scarce too.

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    Venezuela: A country bled dry

    Fading heroes

    Portraits of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Evo Morales and Rafael Correra adorn the side of a building in Caracas, looking over an overflowing dumpster. Many here worshipped the socialist leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador like saints. But in Venezuela, the socialism of the 21st century has been unable to deliver on its promise of prosperity for all.

    Author: Mirjam Gehrke


“The truth cannot be hidden,” Guaido said in a videotaped message, noting the low voter turnout of just 31%. “The majority of Venezuela turned its back on the fraud that began months ago.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the legislative elections, calling the process a “sham” designed by Maduro.

“What’s happening today is a fraud and a sham, not an election,” Pompeo said on Twitter.

The White House National Security Council also called Sunday’s vote fraudulent. “This election only serves to keep Maduro in power and does nothing to build a better future for the people of Venezuela,” the council tweeted.

Despite US President Donald Trump’s campaign of strict sanctions and high diplomatic pressure, Maduro has remained in power, backed by the country’s military and supported by Russia, Cuba, China and Iran.

Maduro has actively campaigned, despite the coronavirus pandemic

Maduro has actively campaigned and held rallies, despite the coronavirus pandemic

Deep and lingering economic woes

More than 20 million Venezuelans were eligible to vote in the country, which has been beset by deep political and economic crises.

The election comes amid a global pandemic, chronic shortages of gas, basic food and medical supplies. Some5 million Venezuelans have fled the country in a wave of migration second in size only to that of war-torn Syria.

The International Monetary Fund has projected a 25% decline this year in Venezuela’s GDP, while hyperinflation has consumed its currency, the bolivar.

Venezuelans wait hours to put gas in their cars

Venezuelans have seen hour-long queues for gasoline in the recent months

A five-year struggle for the legislature

Sunday’s vote brought a power struggle between the opposition and Venezuela’s ruling PSUV to an end. The AN was the last source of power for the opposition, in a country where all institutions are controlled or influenced by Maduro.

The opposition gained control over the AN in 2015, when it won by a landslide. But the triumph was short-lived, as pro-government courts stripped the legislature of power and allowed for the creation of a parallel and all-powerful legislative body known as the National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

An election that was seen as compromised filled the ANC with PSUV and Maduro loyalists. This set the stage for the ongoing power struggle between Guaido and Maduro, after Guaido declared himself acting president of Venezuela in 2019, a decision he based on constitutional powers granted to him as chief of the AN.

Opposition in crisis

Despite having obtained the backing of the United States and more than 50 other nations around the world, Guaido’s interim presidency and parallel government have not been successful at dislodging Maduro from power or persuading the army to switch sides.

After several high-profile pushes for mass mobilization and a failed coup attempt, cracks began to show and Guaido’s government found itself entrenched in a corruption scandal.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido

Opposition leader Juan Guaido is expected to lose his parliamentary leadership in Sunday’s election

Ultimately, the Maduro-controlled Supreme Court suspended the leadership of three of Venezuela’s opposition parties and appointed new leaders, who were accused of conspiring to support Maduro.

The opposition further fractured over Sunday’s election, as a small faction has pledged to participate in the vote.

Guaido has planned a week-long plebiscite, starting Monday, to rebuke the new congress and seeking public support to prolong the mandate of the current AN under his leadership until “free, verifiable and transparent” elections can be held.

jcg,lc/dr (EFE, AP, Reuters, AFP)

Source: Deutsche Welle