The Latest: Venezuela opposition insists vote had problems
Oct. 16, 2017
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on the outcome of and reaction to Venezuela's key regional elections (all times local):
Venezuela's opposition is standing by its assertion that numerous irregularities were committed during regional voting for 23 governors, an election contest that the National Electoral Council says ruling party candidates won soundly.
Opposition leader Angel Oropeza said Monday the opposition won't recognize the results until an independent, internationally verified audit is conducted. He accused election officials of choosing "the path of fraud," though he did not claim they altered vote totals.
Rather, Oropeza said, more than 1 million Venezuelans had difficulty voting Sunday because of problems like delays in opening polling sites and damaged machines.
He also said at least 90,000 votes that should have gone to the opposition did not because election officials refused to remove from ballots candidates who lost in a September primary.
At least one member of Venezuela's opposition who ran for governor in Sunday's regional elections says he is accepting the official results giving an overwhelming victory to ruling party candidates.
Lara state Gov. Henri Falcon told supporters Monday, "We lost."
According to the National Electoral Council, Falcon trailed socialist party candidate Carmen Melendez by 18 points.
Falcon was formerly affiliated with Venezuela's ruling socialists but later switched allegiances and joined the opposition.
Venezuela's official vote count says ruling party candidates won at least 17 of the country's 23 governorships.
The opposition had been widely projected to win a majority of the posts, and its leaders say they are disputing the National Electoral Council's count.
The U.S. government is denouncing what it says is "the lack of free and fair elections" in Venezuela on Sunday.
Official results give the governing socialist party at least 17 of 23 state governorships that were being contested — a sharp contrast to polls showing the opposition with a strong lead.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. on Monday accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday of trying to silence the voices of the people through "voter intimidation, manipulation, and obstruction." Nikki Haley called for "an audit of the electoral process" and described Maduro as a dictator.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that "as long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as an authoritarian dictatorship," the U.S. will use its economic and diplomatic power to help Venezuelans "restore their democracy."