WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday dismissed Venezuela’s presidential election as a “sham,” vowing to take quick action to ramp up economic and diplomatic pressure on President Nicolas Maduro’s beleaguered government.
As world leaders rushed to condemn the election, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that it had been “neither free nor fair.” He called it a “fake process” whose result was illegitimate, calling the move to hold the election “a further blow to the proud democratic tradition of Venezuela.”
“America stands against dictatorship and with the people of Venezuela,” Pence said.
He insisted that Maduro allow humanitarian aid into the country, where widespread food shortages and hyperinflation have helped fuel the social crisis and opposition to Maduro’s government.
It was unclear what specific steps the U.S. would immediately take to increase pressure and punish Maduro for holding the election. But a senior U.S. official said Sunday that the Trump administration might follow through on recent threats by imposing oil sanctions that could cripple Venezuela’s economy.
Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes, according to Venezuela’s Election Council, with more than 92 percent of polling stations accounted for. That was a more than 40-point lead over his closest challenger, Henri Falcon. Even before the vote, the United States had urged Venezuela not to hold it and insisted that any outcome would not be considered legitimate.
Turning up the diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Venezuela’s government “faces isolation from the international community” until it restores democracy and holds free and transparent elections.
He issued a series of allegations about how the election had been marred by government interference, including stifling of the press, a “stacked” election council, silencing of dissent and barring of major opposition parties from the election. He also accused Maduro’s government of rationing food parcels “selectively” to manipulate hungry citizens’ votes.
“The United States stands with democratic nations in support of the Venezuelan people and will take swift economic and diplomatic actions to support the restoration of their democracy,” Pompeo said in a statement.