Venezuela remains under political unrest in the aftermath of a widely disputed election for a new Constituent Assembly that will replace the democratically elected members of the country’s opposition-dominated legislature.
The opposition, who boycotted the vote, questioned the validity of the government’s assertion that eight million people, or more than 40 percent of Venezuela’s voters, voted for the new assembly.
They point to President Nicolas Maduro’s government’s efforts to suppress the vote in certain polling areas in Venezuela’s biggest cities, which left the streets deserted and polling sites empty, as evidence of a low turnout, which they say is around more than 12 percent.
After four months of demonstrations, which sometimes turned violent, some fear Venezuela may see further conflicts, as some opposition youth were reported to have been fighting with government forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails.
The recent protests are the culmination of years of frustration with Maduro’s government, which has presided over an oil-rich Venezuela that is plagued by inflation and food shortages. Protests began in April after a pro-Maduro Supreme Court sought to take away the National Assembly’s power. More than 100 people have died in demonstrations since April.
The temporary defeat of the opposition with Sunday’s vote, has left questions about who would lead the opposition movement going forward. In a move to temper any momentum for the opposition, government agents seized two opposition leaders from their homes, where they had already been on house arrest, during overnight raids, according to their families.
The leaders — Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma—were under house arrest for leading protests against Maduro in 2014. The Maduro government has also accused Ledzma, a former mayor in Caracas, of leading a coup against him.
In response to the power-grap, the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on President Maudo, freezing any American assets he may have, as well as banning Americans from doing business with him. There is also the potential for more-sweeping sanctions that target the country’s oil industry.
The new Constituent Assembly is set to replace the democratically elected members this week. However, several opposition lawmakers went to work on Monday, vowing to continue carrying out their duties, setting the stage for a powerful standoff.