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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in a regional election on Sunday in a surprise win defying opinion polls, but the opposition refused to recognize the outcome, decrying fraud, in what could lead to another wave of sanctions against the regime and renewed unrest in the country sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves.
The pro-government electoral board said that Maduro’s allies and candidates had won 17 governorships, compared to the six governorships won by the opposition. The voter turnout was more than 61 percent. Maduro’s win was unexpected, as opinion polls before the vote had suggested that the opposition would easily win more than half of the state governorships.
“Chavismo is alive in Venezuela”, Maduro said, hailing the socialist victory, while opposition leaders alleged fraud, demanding a full audit, and calling for street protests on Monday.
“Neither Venezuelans nor the world will swallow this fiction,” Gerardo Blyde, campaign director for the opposition Democratic Union Roundtable coalition, said.
According to a poll by private firm Datanalisis, reported by the BBC, 45 percent of voters planned to vote for the opposition, while 21 percent intended to cast a vote for Maduro’s candidates. But according to another poll by the same agency, Maduro’s popularity had increased by 6 percentage points since the U.S. slapped sanctions on him.
Now, according to Reuters, opposition leaders hope that further foreign sanctions on Venezuela would hurt the regime. At the end of August, the U.S. stepped up sanctions on Venezuela, prohibiting dealings in new debt or equity issued by state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) or the government.
The U.S. has not imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela, but such a possibility is not entirely off the table.
Earlier this month, Maduro said that Venezuela had plans A, B, and C, and other alternatives to sell its oil if the United States were to impose oil sanctions.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.