On the 30th July 2017, elections were held to elect members of the 2017 Venezuelan Constitutional Assembly, convened by the presidential decree of President Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro has claimed that the aim of this election was to regain order and bring peace to the divided country troubled by a political crisis and economic meltdown. As a result of the elections, the new Constituent Assembly is now made up of the ruling Socialist Party and their political allies with eight million votes. However, there is an emerging crisis based on doubts about the legitimacy of the result over voter fraud as opposition parties have claimed that the elections were manipulated by at least a million votes.
40 countries reject Venezuela’s new assembly amid fraud accusations
As a result of the fraud accusations over Venezuela’s election, as many as 40 countries have decried the election of the new constituents assembly. Such critics believe that the election was merely an attempt for Nicolás Maduro to consolidate power in the sharply split country as the body will be able to dissolve state institutions, sideline the opposition-led Congress and rewrite the constitution.
According to the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini (pictured below), the European Union would not recognize the new Constituents Assembly due to “concerns over its effective representativeness and legitimacy”. Although Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been the most vocal in proposing sanctions and a travel-block for anyone from Maduro’s government, the EU has shied away from declaring sanctions on President Maduro. However, the EU member states have warned that “The European Union and its member states are ready to gradually step up their response in case democratic principles are further undermined and the Venezuelan constitution is not respected.”
The United Kingdom
Maduro is a “dictator of an evil regime” says Boris Johnson
Since the Venezuelan elections, families of British Embassy staff have been withdrawn. The controversial elections resulted in Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeting that President Maduro was “acting like a dictator of an evil regime and has destroyed Venezuelan economy, eroded human rights and imprisoned thousands.” Furthermore, he added that “Hundreds have died during protests against Maduro’s actions. Political prisoners must be released and rights, freedoms, and democracy respected.” The Foreign Office has also warned against “all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Venezuela, due to ongoing unrest and instability”, also adding: “You should consider leaving the country by normal commercial means. There’s a risk of significant disruption to transport links in and out of the country.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, who is also on holiday like Jeremy Corbyn, has not issued a statement this week on the Venezuelan Constitutional Crisis and has not personally condemned Maduro. The Conservative Party, since, has tweeted about Jeremy Corbyn on the Venezuelan Crisis, stating that “Corbyn won’t condemn what is happening in Venezuela. Why? Because he supports the Socialist policies that have caused the economic chaos.”
Moreover, there have been concerns over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s silence over the Socialist Prime Minister Maduro of Venezuela – a man he once called an “inspiration to us all”. Thus, there has been mounting pressure on him from Labour MPs to denounce the Venezuelan constituents election. The Labour Party has issued a statement in the aftermath of the Constituent Assembly election, with Shadow Foreign Office Minister Liz McInnes personally denouncing Maduro. She asserted that “human rights, free speech and the rule of law” must be protected and that “We urge everyone in Venezuela, on all sides, to end the bloodshed immediately”. She also stated that “The outcome of this election cannot be treated as a mandate for a further escalation of repression, division, and violence”.
The United States
Trump: Maduro is “a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator”
As a consequence of the voter fraud accusations in Venezuela, the Trump Administration has imposed sanctions on current and former government officials, high-ranking military officers, and managers of PDVSA (the state oil company) and prohibited US citizens from dealing with Maduro. The US State Department asserted that the elections were “designed to replace the legitimately elected National Assembly and undermine the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination”. Amid the controversial election President Trump, like Boris Johnson, has called Maduro a “dictator”. The US National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, has issued a similar comment stating that Maduro “joins a very exclusive club,” of leaders such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to be personally sanctioned by the US.
In response to the sanctions, President Maduro angrily responded: “Sanction anyone you want!…The Venezuelan people have decided to be free, and I’ve decided to be the president of a free people.”
However, such sanctions from the US on Venezuela are seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, the restrictions on the PDVSA would cause Venezuela to struggle with its government budget, especially when oil generates 95% of Venezuela’s export income and the US is PDVSA’s largest market. On the other hand, the sanctions on Venezuela will come at a price as US oil-industries are already facing problems with the government’s sanctions on Russia and Iran.
For more detail on the Venezuelan Crisis itself and the introduction of the Constituent Assembly, please click here to read the sister article.