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Venezuela election: Nicolas Maduro wins but could face harsh oil sanctions

Main opposition boycotts poll; US, Latin American nations question vote

Bloomberg  |  Caracas 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with supporters in Caracas after the results of the election were released	Photo: Reuters
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with supporters in Caracas after the results of the election were released Photo: Reuters

President Nicolas won another six-year term as millions of Venezuelans boycotted the widely derided election, a victory that hands him sole ownership of the nation’s crushing economic crisis.

Ignoring calls from the US and regional leaders to suspend the polls, the socialist regime proceeded with the presidential contest despite the threat of further isolation and sanctions on the crisis-stricken nation’s all-important oil industry.

“How many times have they underestimated me?” Maduro, 55, called out to crowd of supporters outside the Mir aflores presidential palace in “You have believed in me, and I’m going to respond to this infinite confidence, this lovely confidence.”

“They say you were forced to vote, that you were coerced into voting — it’s an insult to the people!”

The result continues two decades of rule by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez and Maduro, his hand-picked successor. Over that time, what had been one of Latin America’s wealthiest democracies has fallen into strongman rule. The economy has deteriorated to the point that electricity and running water are luxuries and malnutrition is rampant. Neighbour countries and aid agencies are struggling to care for thousands of Venezuelans who have fled the nation.

Venezuela’s electoral authority said that won almost 68 per cent of the 8.6 million votes cast, while his main challenger, former governor Henri Falcon, took about 21 percent. The most important figure, however was turnout.

Voter participation was about 48 per cent, according to the head of the electoral authority. That would be the lowest for a presidential election since Chavez upended Venezuelan in 1998.

Critics said the government was promising economic benefits to push listless voters to increase the participation rate.

The country’s main opposition alliance shunned the elections after the government refused to satisfy demands including restaffing a compliant electoral authority and providing additional time for primaries. While many polls had given a commanding lead to Falcon, a former soldier and governor, he struggled to gain widespread support as many opponents accused him of legitimising a sham vote.

The US has no plans to recognise Sunday election in Venezuela, and sanctions against the nation’s oil industry are under “active review,” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told reporters in Previous sanctions have been leveled against individuals, but punishing the nation’s lifeline industry could have devastating effects on a population already suffering.

Oil rises to $72 as Venezuelan risk adds to Iran concerns

Oil advanced toward $72 a barrel as Venezuela’s election results escalated the risk of US sanctions against the OPEC nation, adding to mounting concerns about supply following curbs against Iran.

Futures in New York rose as much as 0.9 per cent.

President won the elections in Venezuela, increasing the prospect of US sanctions.

Crude in both New York and London are heading for a third monthly gain after geo-political tensions in the West Asia and US sanctions on Iran pushed it to levels not seen for over three years.

First Published: Mon, May 21 2018. 20:46 IST