U.S. blasts Venezuela vote as “step toward dictatorship”

CBS NewsVenezuela’s National Electoral Council said early Sunday that more than 8 million people had voted to grant President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party virtually unlimited powers with a new constitutional assembly — a turnout more than double the estimates of both the government’s political opponents and independent experts.

The U.S. blasted the vote as a “step toward dictatorship,” and the Trump administration vowed a “strong and swift” response. CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports that the U.S. is vowing to respond to the election with new sanctions against Venezuela — possibly as soon as Monday.

Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena announced just before midnight that turnout in Sunday’s vote was 41.53 percent, or 8,089,320 people. As Bojorquez reports, not a single opposition member was among the more than 5,000 candidates on the ballots to fill the new constitutional assembly. The new 545-member body will have sweeping powers to rewrite Venezuela’s national charter. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.