Venezuela: Maduro Postpones Parallel Legislature Takeover as Opposition Plans Major March

Florencia Cordero center said that one plantain cost as much as her house did 25 years ago.               CBS News

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rejected an allegation that the recent vote on the powerful national assembly was rigged, calling the claim a "reaction by the worldwide enemy".

Despite the protests and worldwide condemnation, Maduro insists the new assembly is the solution to a drawn-out economic and political crisis gripping Venezuela, whose 18- year-old, oil-fueled socialist economic model has been driven to the brink of collapse by a plunge in global crude prices.

Freddy Guevara, Vice President of the unicameral legislature, called for Venezuelans to peacefully defend the parliament building, which the Constituent Assembly is expected to seek to occupy when it begins meeting as early as this week.

Diplomats in Brussels said that did not seem imminent, but stressed the sense of worry was building up in the bloc and that could lead to more action ahead.

President Nicolas Maduro said in televised remarks that Mugica was pressured by the United States and Britain.

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people", US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters.

Maduro provided no evidence to support his claim, but his remarks were received with resounding applause from about 500 people elected to the assembly.

"We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a national constituent assembly was manipulated". But he did not specify whether his company's figures showed 1 million fewer, or 1 million more, voters.

Smartmatic was a company created by Venezuelans that provided electronic voting machines used during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez. NPR's Philip Reeves, reporting from Caracas Monday, saying that: "The election council - the electoral council in Venezuela claims that 42 percent voted".

"This protocol has been followed in all Venezuelan elections since 2004, except for the elections last Sunday, because the opposition didn't participate", Mugica said.

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The Venezuelan government denies any wrongdoing, dismissing criticism as "a reaction by the worldwide enemy".

"Nothing can stain this process, because it's transparent", he said at a ceremony for allies elected to the new assembly, vowing electoral authorities would carry out a "100% audit".

Even before Smartmatic's statement, there were growing questions about the official turnout count.

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

The president also announced the assembly's installation was being delayed by a day, convening on Friday instead of Thursday in order to "organise it well in peace and tranquillity".

Asked about the alleged manipulation of the number of participants reported by Smartmatic, the company that works with Venezuela's voting system, Garces called to ignore that news.

"This would not have occurred if the auditors of all political parties had been present at every stage of the election", he said.

Maduro has blamed the country's woes on what he calls USA imperialism and its supporters inside Venezuela. A figure higher than the 7.6 million votes gathered by the opposition on July 16, in a referendum against the proposed Constituent assembly.

Mr Lopez was detained three years ago after protests against Mr Maduro's government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison on charges that include inciting protesters to violence.

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