Venezuela elections: Nicolás Maduro wins second term

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has shrugged off international condemnation and allegations of vote buying and electoral fraud to claim a second six-year term at the helm of his crisis-stricken nation.

Addressing crowds of supporters outside the presidential palace in Caracas on Sunday night, Maduro hailed the “impeccable electoral process” that had returned him to power with 67.7% of the vote.

“This was a historic day! The day of a heroic victory! The day of a beautiful victory – of a truly popular victory,” Maduro shouted.

“The whole of Venezuela has triumphed! Democracy has triumphed! Peace has triumphed! Constitutionality has triumphed [These were] elections that were constitutional, legitimate and legal,” he insisted, before claiming: “We have a president of the people! A working president!”

Venezuela’s election board put turnout at just 46.1%, way down from the 80% registered at the last presidential vote in 2013, due to a boycott by Venezuela’s mainstream opposition.

Tibisay Lucena, the head of Venezuela’s electoral commission, told reporters Maduro had received more than 5.8m votes compared to the 1.8m of his nearest rival, Henri Falcón.

As results came out, Maduro supporters reportedly let off fireworks in poor Caracas neighbourhoods and danced to Latin pop around the downtown Miraflores presidential palace.

But even before Maduro’s victory speech, domestic opponents and much of the international community were denouncing the election as a “fraud foretold”.

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Javier Bertucci listen to him in Caracas



Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Javier Bertucci listen to him in Caracas Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP

Henri Falcón claimed widespread vote buying and electoral irregularities meant the election was “illegitimate”. “We do not regonize this electoral process as valid,” he told reporters. “As far as we are concerned there has been no election. There must be new elections in Venezuela.”

“All Venezuelans know what happened today,” tweeted Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in the 2013 election and was subsequently barred from running again. “Our beloved Venezuela must have truly free and democratic elections where the will of our People is reflected in the result.”

Luz Mely Reyes, a prominent Venezuelan journalist, tweeted: “Today is a sad day for democracy. The government clings on and manipulates, the opposition is divided and lacking a strategy. And voters are without guides or leadership.”

The United States’ mission to the United Nations indicated it would reject the result. “Today’s so-called election in Venezuela is an insult to democracy … It’s time for Maduro to go,” it tweeted.

The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, said that his country, “like the majority of democratic countries”, would not recognise the vote. “Venezuela’s elections do not meet the minimum standards for a true democracy. They are not clean or legitimate elections and they do not represent the free and sovereign will of the Venezuelan people,” Piñera wrote.

Maduro dismissed such criticisms in his late-night victory address and vowed to work swiftly to stablize his country’s economy, amidst a calamitous economic meltdown that saw the economy shrink by 13% last year and has seen more than a million people flee abroad since 2015.

“You have put your trust in me and I will pay back this infinite, loving trust,” he said.

To cries of “Vamos, Nico!”, Maduro added: “Today I love the Venezuelan people more than ever before!”

منبع مطلب : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/21/venezuela-elections-nicolas-maduro-wins-second-term

US and China put trade war ‘on hold’

America has pulled back from launching a trade war with China that could have destabilised the global economy, by agreeing to put proposed tariffs on Chinese imports “on hold”.

The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said on Sunday that negotiations with Chinese officials have borne fruit, meaning Washington and Beijing can step back from imposing punishing tariffs on each other’s exports.

“We’re putting the trade war on hold, right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework,” Mnuchin told Fox News.

The breakthrough came after two days of talks between Mnuchin and China’s vice-premier, Liu He, in Washington last week.

Mnuchin said that the US has won several commitments from Chinese officials that should cut America’s trade deficit with China, which hit $375bn (£278bn) in 2017. However, Beijing has not agreed to cut the deficit by a particular amount, despite the Trump administration pushing for a $200bn reduction.

In a statement, the two sides said they had reached “a consensus on taking effective measures” to cut the US trade deficit in goods with China.

“To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services,” they said.

Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, said the US-Chinese statement amounted to a vow “not to launch a trade war against each other”.

Last month, the US and China announced a series of tit-for-tat tariff measures that, if implemented, could have triggered a full-blown trade war. The Trump administration announced 25% tariffs on more than a thousand Chinese products – from robots and depleted uranium to aircraft parts and dishwashing machines.

Rather than be cowed, China swiftly hit back with proposals for tariffs of 25% on 106 American products including soybeans, cars and chemical products. This could have hurt farmers in America’s agricultural sector and manufacturers in the “rust belt” – two key election battlegrounds.

None of these tariffs have yet come into effect, meaning China and the US can step back from a conflict over trade.

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The prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies has weighed on the financial markets in recent weeks, so investors will be relieved that a breakthrough has been reached.

But Tai Hui, JP Morgan’s chief market strategist for Asia Pacific, warned that this is unlikely to be the end of tension between the two countries.

“Historical precedents suggest the U.S. could re-engage with China on trade issues if it sees China dragging its feet on fulfilling its pledges. Moreover, the last three months have further exposed Washington’s concerns over China’s advancement in technology and its threat as a competitor, both commercially and strategically,” said Hui.

“It’s like a back pain that never goes away. It was a shock in the first instance it happened, but then life goes on as the most acute symptoms are addressed. The good news is that markets should learn to live with it and consider its impact more rationally.”

America is battling trade issues on several fronts. It has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with European countries pushing for an exemption. Trump is also demanding a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Mnuchin, though, says efforts to renegotiate Nafta (the North American free trade agreement) could run until 2019 as negotiators are “still far apart”.

منبع مطلب : https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/20/us-and-china-put-trade-war-on-hold

Maduro wins Venezuelan election branded ‘illegitimate & undemocratic’ by US and opposition

With 92.6 percent of the vote counted, Maduro has won presidential election with 5,823,728 of the votes, National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced. His main adversary, Henri Falcon of the Progressive Advance party, obtained 1,820,552 votes; while the independent candidate Javier Bertucci won 925,042 votes.

“How much have they underestimated our revolutionary people, and how much have they underestimated me,” Maduro told a late-night crowd in front of the presidential palace. “And here we are, victorious.”

Over eight million Venezuelans participated in the election, which witnessed a low 46.1 percent participation rate after opposition parties called for a boycott of the election, declaring them a “fraud.”

“The process undoubtedly lacks legitimacy and as such we do not recognize it,” Falcon proclaimed, even before the election results were announced. The candidate claimed that the vote was full of irregularities and totally rigged in favor of Maduro because the mainstream opposition promoted abstention, leaving Falcon without potential voters.

On Friday, the US Treasury seemingly tried to sway public opinion and the result of Sunday’s vote by officially linking Maduro to drug trade, accusing the country’s “second most powerful man,” Diosdado Cabello, of running a narcotics ring and sharing profits with the president.

Maduro, who himself is subject to US sanctions, repeatedly slammed Washington’s punitive measures as part of a broader campaign aimed at overthrowing his government.

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منبع مطلب : https://www.rt.com/news/427270-maduro-venezuela-presidential-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Billboard Music Awards 2018: Winners list in full

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards honoured some of the biggest names in music.

The ceremony took place on Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this year, with Kelly Clarkson hosting the evening.

The star-studded event featured performances from Janet Jackson, Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello and Kesha. 

But the event centred around which artists took home the coveted Golden Microphones. 

Before the show started, Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar led the nominations with 15 apiece, while Post Malone was up for 13 nominations and Imagine Dragons was up for 11 awards. 

Also leading the pack was Drake with nine nominations and Taylor Swift with five nominations.

Ed Sheeran took home the award for Top Artist while Bruno Mars won an accolade for Top R&B Artist.

Taylor Swift won Top Selling Album for reputation, and Khalid won Top New Artist.

See the winners list in full below.

Top Artist:

Drake

Kendrick Lamar

Bruno Mars

Ed Sheeran – WINNER

Taylor Swift

Top New Artist:

21 Savage

Camila Cabello

Cardi B

Khalid – WINNER

Kodak Black

Billboard Chart Achievement Award:

Camila Cabello – WINNER

Cardi B

Drake

Sam Hunt

Ed Sheeran

Top Male Artist:

Drake

Kendrick Lamar – WINNER

Bruno Mars

Post Malone

Ed Sheeran

Top Female Artist:

Camila Cabello

Cardi B

Halsey

Demi Lovato

Taylor Swift – WINNER

Top Duo/Group:

The Chainsmokers

Coldplay

Imagine Dragons – WINNER

Migos

U2

Top Billboard 200 Artist:

Drake – WINNER

Kendrick Lamar

Ed Sheeran

Chris Stapleton

Taylor Swift

Top Hot 100 Artist:

Imagine Dragons

Kendrick Lamar

Bruno Mars

Post Malone

Ed Sheeran – WINNER

Top Streaming Songs Artist:

Cardi B

Drake

Kendrick Lamar – WINNER

Post Malone

Ed Sheeran

Top Song Sales Artist:

Imagine Dragons

Kendrick Lamar

Bruno Mars

Post Malone

Ed Sheeran – WINNER

Top Radio Songs Artist:

Halsey

Imagine Dragons

Bruno Mars

Charlie Puth

Ed Sheeran – WINNER

Top Social Artist:

Justin Bieber

BTS – WINNER

Ariana Grande

Demi Lovato

Shawn Mendes

Top Touring Artist:

Coldplay

Guns N’ Roses

Bruno Mars

Ed Sheeran

U2 – WINNER

Top R&B Artist:

Chris Brown

Khalid

Bruno Mars – WINNER

SZA

The Weeknd

Top R&B Male Artist:

Khalid

Bruno Mars – WINNER

The Weeknd

Top R&B Female Artist:

Beyonce

Rihanna

SZA – WINNER

Top R&B Tour:

Bruno Mars – WINNER

Lionel Richie

The Weeknd

Top Rap Artist:

Drake

Kendrick Lamar – WINNER

Lil Uzi Vert

Migos

Post Malone

Top Rap Male Artist:

Drake

Kendrick Lamar – WINNER

Post Malone

Top Rap Female Artist:

Bhad Bhabie

Cardi B – WINNER

Nicki Minaj

Top Rap Tour:

J. Cole

JAY-Z – WINNER

Kendrick Lamar

Top Country Artist:

Kane Brown

Luke Combs

Sam Hunt

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton – WINNER

Top Country Male Artist:

Sam Hunt

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton – WINNER

Top Country Female Artist:

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Maren Morris – WINNER

Top Country Duo/Group Artist:

Florida Georgia Line – WINNER

Old Dominion

Zac Brown Band

Top Country Tour:

Luke Bryan – WINNER

Florida Georgia Line

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Top Rock Artist:

Imagine Dragons – WINNER

Linkin Park

Portugal. The Man

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

twenty one pilots

Top Rock Tour:

Coldplay

Guns N’ Roses

U2 — WINNER

Top Latin Artist:

J Balvin

Daddy Yankee

Luis Fonsi

Ozuna – WINNER

Romeo Santos

Top Dance/Electronic Artist:

The Chainsmokers – WINNER

Calvin Harris

Kygo

Marshmello

ODESZA

Top Christian Artist:

Elevation Worship

Hillsong UNITED

Hillsong Worship

MercyMe – WINNER

Zach Williams

Top Gospel Artist:

Anthony Brown & group therAPy

Travis Greene

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise

Tasha Cobbs Leonard – WINNER

Tamela Mann

Top Billboard 200 Album:

Drake, More Life

Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. – WINNER

Post Malone, Stoney

Ed Sheeran ÷ (Divide)

Taylor Swift, reputation

Top Selling Album:

Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.

P!nk, Beautiful Trauma

Ed Sheeran, ÷ (Divide)

Chris Stapleton, From A Room: Volume 1

Taylor Swift, reputation – WINNER

Top Soundtrack:

Black Panther

The Fate of the Furious: The Album

The Greatest Showman

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2

Moana — WINNER

Top R&B Album:

Khalid, American Teen

Bruno Mars, 24K MagicWINNER

SZA, CTRL

The Weeknd, Starboy

XXXTentacion, 17

Top Rap Album:

Drake, More Life

Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. – WINNER

Lil Uzi Vert, Luv Is Rage 2

Migos, Culture

Post Malone, Stoney

Top Country Album:

Kane Brown, Kane Brown

Luke Combs, This One’s For You

Thomas Rhett, Life Changes

Chris Stapleton, From A Room: Volume 1WINNER

Brett Young, Brett Young

Top Rock Album:

Imagine Dragons, Evolve – WINNER

Linkin Park, One More Light

Panic! At The Disco, Death of a Bachelor

Portugal. The Man, Woodstock

U2, Songs of Experience

Top Latin Album:

Nicky Jam, Fenix

Christian Nodal, Me Deje Llevar

Ozuna, OdiseaWINNER

Romeo Santos, Golden

Shakira, El Dorado

Top Dance/Electronic Album:

Avicii, AVĨCI (01)

The Chainsmokers, Memories…Do Not OpenWINNER

Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Kygo, Stargazing

ODESZA, A Moment Apart

Top Christian Album:

Elevation Worship, There Is A Cloud

Hillsong UNITED, Wonder

Hillsong Worship, Let There Be Light

Alan Jackson, Precious Memories Collection – WINNER

MercyMe, Lifer

Top Gospel Album:

Anthony Brown & group therAPy, A Long Way From Sunday

Travis Greene, Crossover: Live From Music City

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, You Deserve It

Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Heart. Passion. Pursuit WINNER

Marvin Sapp, Close

Top Hot 100 Song:

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito” – WINNER

Kendrick Lamar, “Humble.”

Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar”

Ed Sheeran, “Shape Of You”

Top Streaming Song (Audio):

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito”

Kendrick Lamar, “Humble.” – WINNER

Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour LLIF3”

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar”

Post Malone ft. Quavo, “Congratulations”

Top Streaming Song (Video):

Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito” – WINNER

Lil Pump, “Gucci Gang”

Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”

Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You”

Top Selling Song:

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito” – WINNER

Sam Hunt “Body Like A Back Road”

Imagine Dragons “Believer”

Imagine Dragons “Thunder”

Ed Sheeran “Perfect”

Top Radio Song:

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Something Just Like This”

Imagine Dragons, “Believer”

Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”

Charlie Puth, “Attention”

Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” – WINNER

Top Collaboration:

Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug, “Havana” 

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Something Just Like This”

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito” – WINNER

French Montana ft. Swae Lee, “Unforgettable”

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar”

Top R&B Song:

Childish Gambino, “Redbone”

DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts”

Khalid, “Young Dumb & Broke”

Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like” – WINNER

Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B, “Finesse”

Top Rap Song:

Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

DJ Khaled ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne, “I’m The One”

French Montana ft. Swae Lee, “Unforgettable”

Kendrick Lamar, “Humble.”

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar” — WINNER

Top Country Song:

Kane Brown ft. Lauren Alaina, “What Ifs”

Sam Hunt, “Body Like A Back Road” – WINNER

Dustin Lynch, “Small Town Boy”

Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line, “Meant To Be”

Brett Young, “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Top Rock Song:

Imagine Dragons “Believer” – WINNER

Imagine Dragons “Thunder”

Linkin Park ft. Kiiara “Heavy”

Portugal. The Man “Feel It Still”

The Revivalists “Wish I Knew You”

Top Latin Song:

J Balvin & Willy William Ft. Beyonce, “Mi Gente”

Becky G ft. Bad Bunny, ”Mayores”

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito” – WINNER

Maluma, “Felices Los 4”

Wisin ft. Ozuna, “Escapate Conmigo”

Top Dance/Electronic Song:

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Something Just Like This” – WINNER

Cheat Codes ft. Demi Lovato, “No Promises”

Clean Bandit ft. Sean Paul & Ann-Marie, “Rockabye”

Kygo & Selena Gomez, “It Ain’t Me”

Zedd & Alessia Cara, “Stay”

Top Christian Song:

Elevation Worship, “O Come To The Altar”

Hillsong Worship, “What A Beautiful Name” – WINNER

Lecrae ft. Tori Kelly, “I’ll Find You”

MercyMe, “Even If”

Zach Williams, “Old Church Choir”

Top Gospel Song:

Anthony Brown & group therAPy, “Trust In You”

Travis Greene, “You Waited”

J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, “You Deserve It” – WINNER

Tamela Mann, “Change Me”

Charlie Wilson, “I’m Blessed”

منبع مطلب : http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/billboard-music-awards-2018-winners-full-list-taylor-swift-janet-jackson-a8360786.html

Mendes, Khalid perform with Stoneman Douglas High School choir

May 20 (UPI) — The show choir from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting in February, joined Shawn Mendes and Khalid on the Billboard Music Awards stage for a performance.

The choir members teamed-up with the pop stars to perform Youth, a single from Mendes’ self-titled debut album that happens to come out later this week.

The choir members and Mendes also wore sweatshirts with the word, “Youth” in front.

The lyrics in Youth do not appear to directly address gun violence, but the optimism that young people sometimes have: “You can’t take my youth away/This soul of mine will never break/As long as I wake up today/You can’t take my youth away/You can’t take my youth away/This soul of mine will never break/As long as I wake up today/You can’t take my youth away/You can’t take my youth away.”

Khalid, who appears on the original recording, wore a sweatshirt that said, “Protect our children” with the word “guns” crossed out.

منبع مطلب : https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2018/05/20/Mendes-Khalid-perform-with-Stoneman-Douglas-High-School-choir/8271526868905/

US and China put trade war ‘on hold’

America has pulled back from launching a trade war with China that could have destabilised the global economy, by agreeing to put proposed tariffs on Chinese imports “on hold”.

The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said on Sunday that negotiations with Chinese officials have borne fruit, meaning Washington and Beijing can step back from imposing punishing tariffs on each other’s exports.

“We’re putting the trade war on hold, right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework,” Mnuchin told Fox News.

The breakthrough came after two days of talks between Mnuchin and China’s vice-premier, Liu He, in Washington last week.

Mnuchin said that the US has won several commitments from Chinese officials that should cut America’s trade deficit with China, which hit $375bn (£278bn) in 2017. However, Beijing has not agreed to cut the deficit by a particular amount, despite the Trump administration pushing for a $200bn reduction.

In a statement, the two sides said they had reached “a consensus on taking effective measures” to cut the US trade deficit in goods with China.

“To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services,” they said.

Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, said the US-Chinese statement amounted to a vow “not to launch a trade war against each other”.

Last month, the US and China announced a series of tit-for-tat tariff measures that, if implemented, could have triggered a full-blown trade war. The Trump administration announced 25% tariffs on more than a thousand Chinese products – from robots and depleted uranium to aircraft parts and dishwashing machines.

Rather than be cowed, China swiftly hit back with proposals for tariffs of 25% on 106 American products including soybeans, cars and chemical products. This could have hurt farmers in America’s agricultural sector and manufacturers in the “rust belt” – two key election battlegrounds.

None of these tariffs have yet come into effect, meaning China and the US can step back from a conflict over trade.

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The prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies has weighed on the financial markets in recent weeks, so investors will be relieved that a breakthrough has been reached.

But Tai Hui, JP Morgan’s chief market strategist for Asia Pacific, warned that this is unlikely to be the end of tension between the two countries.

“Historical precedents suggest the U.S. could re-engage with China on trade issues if it sees China dragging its feet on fulfilling its pledges. Moreover, the last three months have further exposed Washington’s concerns over China’s advancement in technology and its threat as a competitor, both commercially and strategically,” said Hui.

“It’s like a back pain that never goes away. It was a shock in the first instance it happened, but then life goes on as the most acute symptoms are addressed. The good news is that markets should learn to live with it and consider its impact more rationally.”

America is battling trade issues on several fronts. It has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with European countries pushing for an exemption. Trump is also demanding a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Mnuchin, though, says efforts to renegotiate Nafta (the North American free trade agreement) could run until 2019 as negotiators are “still far apart”.

منبع مطلب : https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/20/us-and-china-put-trade-war-on-hold

US rejects ‘insult to democracy’ as Venezuela president Maduro pursues second term

The United States condemned Venezuela’s election as “an insult to democracy” and opposition leaders rejected a “fraud foretold” on Sunday as low voter turnout looked to have spoiled what President Nicolás Maduro had promised would be a great “fiesta” of democracy.

Venezuela’s 34,000 polling stations – open since 6am when Maduro cast the first vote – had been due to close at 6pm. But as darkness fell, state broadcaster Telesur announced they would stay open “as long as there are people in line to cast their vote”.

In a tweet posted shortly before polling stations should have closed, the US mission to the United Nations indicated it would reject the result, although there was no indication from Venezuelan authorities when one might be announced. “Today’s so-called election in Venezuela is an insult to democracy … It’s time for Maduro to go,” the US said.

The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, tweeted that his country, “like the majority of democratic countries”, would not recognise the vote. “Venezuela’s elections do not meet the minimum standards for a true democracy. They are not clean or legitimate elections and they do not represent the free and sovereign will of the Venezuelan people,” Piñera wrote.

Claudio Fermín, the campaign chief for Maduro’s main opponent, Henri Falcón, claimed his team had documented 900 cases of voting irregularities involving benefits being offered outside polling stations to those who backed the president. “It’s time to remove this cheating government,” Falcón tweeted.

Addressing reporters at the presidential palace, Miraflores, earlier in the day Maduro played down those allegations as “small events” that would not affect the overall result. He claimed international criticism was part of a “permanent” campaign of aggression by “the United States’ Klu Klux Klan government”.

Maduro is hoping to secure a second six-year term despite leading his oil-rich nation into a shattering economic depression that has prompted one of the worst migration crises in recent Latin American history.

South America’s fifth most populous nation is racked with hyperinflation, crime and chronic shortages of food and medicine while critics accuse Maduro of turning a once vibrant democracy into an increasingly dictatorial state.

But as he cast his vote in the capital, Caracas, on Sunday morning Maduro claimed a veritable democratic “fiesta” was under way.

“Today is a historic day that no-one will forget,” the 55-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister told Telesur, Venezuela’s state-run broadcaster. “It’s a day of celebration … We are celebrating the freedom … that we enjoy in this country … of opinion, of action, of mobilization, of thought – and the freedom to choose.”

Maduro loyalists parroted that message as they headed out to vote for the man who inherited Hugo Chávez’s ‘Bolivarian revolution’ after his death in 2013. “Look at the people in the streets!” Delcy Rodríguez, the president of Maduro’s widely reviled constituent assembly, declared. “A big democratic fiesta is taking place in Venezuela.”

Critics ridiculed those claims, denouncing the vote, which Venezuela’s mainstream opposition is boycotting and the United States has called a sham, as a “mojiganga” (farce). “These are not elections. They are a farce intended to keep Maduro in power without popular support,” Juan Pablo Guanipa, a prominent opposition leader, told Reuters.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, tweeted: “Sham elections change nothing. We need Venezuelan people running this country … a nation with so much to offer the world.”

Amid reports that polling centres had failed to open in some opposition areas and of eerily quiet streets, Falcón, issued a final plea for voters to exercise their democratic right. “The day has come to make history and to save Venezuela,” he tweeted.

That looks unlikely, with experts predicting the lowest voter turnout since Chávez was first elected in 1998 will help return Maduro to power despite the social, political and economic turmoil gripping his country.

In a televised address on the eve of Sunday’s vote, Maduro rejected claims Venezuela was “in ruins” as an imperialist smear campaign designed to topple his government.

“[Instead of attacking Venezuela] why don’t they deal with the humanitarian crisis in Africa: the unemployment, the hunger, the poverty, the lack of education and services?” he asked. “Why don’t they deal with the killing and the crisis in Gaza and the murders of dozens of men and women who are fighting for their land in Palestine?”

The Republican senator Marco Rubio joined a growing chorus of criticism on Sunday evening, tweeting in Spanish: “The dictator @NicolasMaduro isn’t fooling anyone. The world has seen this farce and supports the people of Venezuela in their struggle for the return of a democratic country.”

منبع مطلب : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/20/venezuela-president-nicolas-maduro-election