Security forces seize opposition leaders in Venezuela night raids

Security forces seize opposition leaders in Venezuela night raids

"This announcement is very serious because [Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica] said that there was manipulation of figures", Ortega said, adding that it represented "one more element of the fraudulent and unconstitutional process" in forming the Constituent Assembly. Ortega had described Sunday's vote as illegal.

Smartmatic's chief executive Antonio Mugica said he could not "endorse" the outcome as officials ignored his company's results.

Wednesday, the firm that provided the voting machines announced that it already has evidence of at least 1 million falsified votes.

Smartmatic has provided the software and hardware for every Venezuelan election since 2004, including the 2004 recall referendum against Chavez, (which Hugo Chavez won), the 2006 reelection (which Hugo Chavez won), the 2012 Presidential elections (which Chavez also won, handily) and the 2013 Presidential elections, which Nicolas Maduro, Chavezs handpicked successor also won, narrowly.

On July 16, more than 7 million Venezuelans cast ballots in an unofficial vote against Maduro's Constituent Assembly.

Many have dubbed this phenomenon the "Maduro diet" for the embattled president, who has said that doing without "makes you tough". Leaders of the opposition, which is supported by a sizeable portion of the population, argued that the turnout number was inflated. The next scheduled election is October, 2018.

A National Elections Council official contacted by Reuters said there was nobody available to speak about the issue.

The electoral authority itself - criticised as a Maduro mouthpiece - denied the vote-tampering allegation as "an irresponsible contention based on estimates with no grounding in the data".

Opponents urged people to take to the streets today to prevent the new assembly being sworn-in.

Details on what might be included in a new constitution are unclear.

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"The Constituent Assembly has aggravated the crisis in Venezuela and threatens to deteriorate other legitimate institutions provided by the Constitution, such as the national assembly", said the Spanish newspaper El País.

Maduro says the body will help end the violence and protests that have engulfed the country since March, with at least 125 reported dead and some 2,000 wounded.

In addition to illegally claiming all lawmaking duties from the National Assembly, Maduro-apparently exhausted of being accused of violating the nation's constitution-has tasked the ANC with drafting a new constitution friendlier to his regime. Washington has directly sanctioned Maduro, calling him a "dictator".

Maduro raged on television that he does not care.

"I will not obey imperial orders". Spain has been the most vocal in advocating sanctions but others have mostly been coy.

But oil workers, whom Maduro considers a bedrock of support, rallied across Venezuela on Wednesday to denounce sanctions on the leftist president. "The United States calls on all who cherish freedom to condemn the Maduro regime for its abuse of power and its abuse of its own people".

Meanwhile, two judges named to Supreme Court posts by Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature have sought protection at the Chilean embassy in Caracas, Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz confirmed late Tuesday.

"A company located outside the country does not guarantee the transparency and credibility of the Venezuelan electoral system", she said. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela's inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.

Asked about the danger of a civil war in Venezuela, Garces noted that only a foreign intervention might propitiate that scenario.