Brussels — The EU on Monday condemned “the excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces” in Venezuela, where authorities said 10 people had been killed in clashes between anti-Maduro protesters and law enforcement.
Sunday marked one of the deadliest days since protests started in early April in Venezuela, where voters broadly boycotted an election for a constitutional super-body sought by the unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.
“Venezuela has democratically elected and legitimate institutions whose role is to work together and to find a negotiated solution to the current crisis. A constituent assembly, elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances cannot be part of the solution,” the bloc’s foreign policy service said in a statement.
It did not mention whether the EU was considering imposing more sanctions on Venezuela, as mulled by the US.
Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party has vowed that the newly elected legislative super-body will begin passing laws quickly.
The country’s CNE elections authority said 8.1-million voters went to the polls on Sunday. The opposition estimated only 2.5-million ballots were cast.
Maduro’s critics characterised the election as a naked power grab meant to keep him in office despite repudiation over an economic crisis that has spurred malnutrition and left citizens struggling to obtain basic products in the nation of about 30-million people.
The vote could compound those economic woes if the US — the top market for Venezuelan oil — follows through on threats of economic sanctions, and could sow doubts among investors about the legitimacy of financing deals backed by the new assembly.
“The constituent assembly will start its work right away,” Diosdado Cabello, deputy head of the Socialist Party, told a post-election rally in Caracas that featured singers, dancers and culminated after midnight in the announcement of the official vote count and a fiery speech by Maduro.
“Good morning Venezuela. We have a constituent assembly!” he shouted. “I ask our countrymen to close ranks so that the assembly can be a place of dialogue.”
On Sunday, the US State Department vowed “strong swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism” that, according to US officials, will involve sanctions on the oil sector.
Allies of the Socialist Party won all 545 seats in the new assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution, dissolve state institutions such as the opposition-run Congress, and sack dissident officials.
“The constitutional assembly will not resolve any of the country’s problems, it just means more crisis,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told a news conference, calling for a new round of protests at noon on Monday.
“As of tomorrow, a new stage of the struggle begins,” Capriles said.
Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which are historically wary of siding with Washington in hemispheric disputes, sharply condemned the vote.
Several refused to recognise the results, while Spain and Canada joined in the condemnation.
Socialist party official Cabello hinted that the constitutional assembly would hold sessions in the same legislative palace as the existing Congress, which the opposition took over in a landslide 2015 victory.
“They kick us out the door we come back through the window,” he told a news conference. “We never surrender. We insist and insist until we win. Today we feel victorious.”
The opposition organised an unofficial referendum over Maduro’s plan in July, when more than 7-million voters overwhelmingly rejected his constituent assembly and voted in favour of early elections.