Controversial Venezuela vote to be investigated, attorney general says

Controversial Venezuela vote to be investigated, attorney general says

Venezuela's opposition postponed a protest against a powerful new assembly backed by President Maduro until the body opens Friday, amid worldwide condemnation and a fraud investigation. Regime thugs answer protests with deadly force.

After a national vote seen as consolidating his grip on power, sanctions were extended this week to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Ledezma, 62, was arrested in February 2015 on charges of conspiracy and racketeering and was placed under house arrest three months later for health reasons. But many Venezuelans rejected those figures, pointing to the absence of lines or crowds at polling places.

Maduro has dismissed the U.S. sanctions and criticism, retorting that he will not heed "imperial orders".

"Why are they sanctioning me?"

The dissident group said Friday's protest was being held "to defend the constitution".

US oil markets had a muted reaction to the Maduro sanctions, although experts said financial sanctions may be the only way to influence Maduro.

"I will not obey imperial orders".

Diosdado Cabello-the socialist minority leader in the National Assembly, soon-to-be member of the ANC, and alleged drug kingpin-called the opposition "terrorists" on his television program Hitting with the Mallet.

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"In the short term, the Constituent Assembly gives a bit of breathing space to the government", he conceded, though adding that grave economic consequences would follow.

The Maduro government faces global opprobrium for presiding over economic meltdown and this week, detaining opposition figures.

The opposition, which boycotted the vote, said turnout was less than four million, and that account was reinforced by journalists' reports that dozens of polling places around Caracas were nearly deserted on Sunday. As Smartmatic pointed out, the CNE relaxed the auditing controls for this crucial election doing away with 14 different controls, including indelible ink, opposition witnesses, worldwide observers, physical (paper) ballots, etc. Candidates were chosen from groups affiliated with the government of Nicolas Maduro and government supporters were given extra votes in their occupational areas. Several global leaders and human rights groups also have criticized the new constitution as a prelude to dictatorship.

Crude oil prices spiked last week under threat of US sanctions on Venezuelan oil, though it may have been a more psychological reaction as Maduro could likely find alternate customers should Washington tighten the sanctions noose.

In his first meeting with assembly delegates on Wednesday night, Maduro not only stood by the official count, but proclaimed that an additional two million people would have voted if they had not been blocked by anti-government protesters.

Venezuela plunged into turmoil in January 2016, when a new opposition-dominated legislature was elected, and relations between Maduro and the parliament became strained.

In recent years it has branched out to provide the same services to countries across the world, while continuing to provide support for elections in Venezuela. All candidates offered were Maduro supporters - one has even been married to the president since 2013. He has warned against intervention by the Organization of American States, saying that would surely lead to civil war.

"The clock is ticking fast and time is running out for authorities in Venezuela to make a decisive U-turn when it comes to their approach to free expression", she said.

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