Controversial Venezuela vote to be investigated, attorney general says
Posted August 2
Updated August 3
Venezuela's Attorney General has initiated an investigation into potential voter fraud in Sunday's election, following claims that the government may have inflated voter numbers significantly.
Luisa Ortega Diaz, in an interview to CNN en Espa-ol Wednesday, said that she has appointed two prosecutors to investigate the directors of the National Electoral Council "for this very scandalous act that could generate more violence in the country than what we have already experienced."
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro orchestrated last weekend's vote, which led to the creation of a controversial new legislative body, the National Constituent Assembly. The body takes the place of the opposition-led National Assembly, in a move that critics fear will erode democracy.
The opposition boycotted the election, calling it fraudulent, and said the National Constituent Assembly will have the power to rewrite Venezuela's constitution.
"It's very serious, I believe we have to investigate and determine who is at fault," Ortega, a vocal critic of Maduro's government, said.
"Probably, voter data doesn't even match half of it (voter turnout)."
She called the formation of the Assembly a "significant event" and said that the new body has no oversight.
"They can do all they want. We are going to have a legislative body with super powers," Ortega said. "It's important for the country to know the reach of this fraud and if it constitutes a crime."
Vote 'tampered with'
Antonio Mugica, chief executive of London-based Smartmatic, which provided the voting technology for the controversial vote, said that the Venezuela's National Electoral Council voting numbers of more than 8 million people -- about 41.53% of registered voters -- are off by 1 million votes.
At a press conference Wednesday in London, Mugica claimed the turnout figures were "tampered with."
"Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turn out of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated," he said.
Maduro disputed the assertion Wednesday. "The stupid president of Smartmatic, under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom, now says only 7.5 million people voted," he said. "I say it was more than 10 million."
Ortega also said they are considering reaching out to international organizations, if they determine that crimes against humanity were committed.
The newly elected Venezuelan legislative body will meet for the first time Friday morning, Maduro said in a speech broadcast nationwide. Virtually all the new body's 545 members are supporters of the leftist leader.
More than 350 members of the new assembly were elected in open municipal votes. The remaining members were elected by people from certain social and industry groups, like students, pensioners or workers.
Maduro also announced he had named Jorge Arreaza, a former vice president, as foreign minister. Samuel Moncada, who was foreign minister, will become Venezuela's representative of the Organization of American States.
OAS to discuss 'illegitimate' election
On Wednesday night, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), called for an emergency council meeting regarding "the aggravation of the crisis in Venezuela."
Almagro cited "illegitimate electoral acts for the installation of a Constituent Assembly, as well as electoral fraud of more than one million votes," arguing that Venezuela is infringing on two articles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
The meeting is to take place over the weekend.
In a nonbinding July 16 referendum organized by opposition parties, an overwhelming majority of voters came out against Maduro's plan.
The referendum asked voters three yes-no questions. More than 98% of voters chose to reject the proposed constitutional assembly, request the military defend the existing constitution and support fresh elections before Maduro's term ends in 2019.
About 7 million Venezuelans voted in that referendum, 37% of the country's electorate.
Venezuelan AG: Why I became a critic
In her CNNE interview, Diaz spoke for the first time about the events that led her to become a vocal critic of the Venezuelan government after years of being a staunch Chavista.
Diaz told CNNE's Fernando del Rincon that the political, social, and institutional crisis in the country were reason enough, but that she was also motivated by the kidnapping of her daughter and grandson, as well as continuous attacks at her workplace.
She said that, while attending a meeting of regional Attorneys General, her daughter and grandson were kidnapped, and that she experienced "permanent persecution, the siege to the ... Attorney General's Office, my house, the house of my relatives has been permanent in recent months."
She said that she has been consistent in her political views, while others in government have changed theirs.
"My position has always been the same, for five, 10 years, two years, I continue to act in the same way. I believe that those who have to check themselves are others."