Thu, 20 Jun 2019

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro further consolidated power in Venezuelan local elections on Sunday, while accusing US President Donald Trump of plotting to overthrow him.

The majority of nearly 2 500 council seats spread across the crisis-stricken country went to members of Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela, election officials loyal to Maduro said.

After casting his ballot, Maduro spoke on state TV scoffing at Trump and other foreign leaders who have labeled him a dictator.

"An attempt is under way today coming straight from the White House to destroy our way of life in Venezuela and to overthrow our constitutional democracy," Maduro said.

The election came as an economic crisis rocks the once-wealthy oil country after two decades of socialist rule. Millions of Venezuelans have fled searching for a better life.

Maduro's government has banned the most popular opposition parties from elections, while leading figures in the movement are jailed or go into exile fearing for their safety.

Other anti-government leaders urged a boycott of the municipal elections, not wishing to legitimise what they consider a corrupt process.

The broader anti-government movement is focused on rallying international condemnation of Maduro on January 10, the start of his second six-year term.

The United States, many European nations and most Latin American countries have rejected the May 20 election that Maduro won by a landslide as a sham.

Little more than 27% of some 20 million eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday's council races, said Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council, praising the election as strengthening Venezuela's democracy.

Maduro said many opposition leaders are waiting for a US-led invasion without giving details. Later asked about the supposed invasion plot, socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello said he is convinced the United States is eager to remove Maduro.

"There is no coup in the world where the US has its arms crossed," he said.

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