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Venezuela president says US pressure behind vote tampering claims

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has accused an international software firm of being part of a US campaign to stain the results of Venezuela’s vote for an all powerful constitutional assembly.

The official count of voters in Sunday’s election was off by at least one million, according to the head of the technology firm Smartmatic, a finding certain to sow further discord over a body that has been granted to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.

Nicolás Maduro stood by the official count of more than 8m votes and said an additional 2 million people would have voted if they had not been blocked by opposition protesters.

“That stupid guy, the president of Smartmatic, pressured to the neck by the gringos and the Brits, said there were 7.5 million [voters],” Maduro said in televised remarks. “I think there were 10 million Venezuelans who went out.”

Antonio Mugica, the chief executive of London-based Smartmatic, had said on Wednesday that results recorded by the company’s systems show “without any doubt” that the official turnout figure was tampered with.

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

The body, made up entirely of the ruling Socialist party and its political allies, will have the ability to dissolve state institutions and rewrite the constitution. Maduro has also vowed he will use it to target his opponents.

Venezuela’s opposition has announced plans to block the inauguration of a contentious constituent assembly whose election was further clouded on Wednesday by fresh allegations of ballot fraud.

As many as 40 countries have said they would not recognize the new assembly, which critics say is a thinly veiled attempt by Nicolás Maduro to consolidate power. The body will have the ability to dissolve state institutions and rewrite the constitution.

Maduro has said his aim is to bring peace to the sharply split country caught up in political crisis and economic meltdown.

>Juthy Saha



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