The Latest: Maduro says company's vote claim part of US plot

The Latest: Maduro says company's vote claim part of US plot

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on Venezuela's political crisis and the dispute over a rewrite of its constitution (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is accusing an international voting software firm of being part of a U.S. campaign to stain the results of the country's election of a constitutional assembly.

Maduro told members of the newly chosen constituent assembly Wednesday night that Smartmatic bent to U.S. pressures aimed at casting doubt on the official results announced for Sunday's vote.

Smartmatic's CEO said earlier in the day that the government's turnout figures were off by at least 1 million.

The nation's electoral council has said more than 8 million people voted, but independent analysts have questioned that number.

Maduro said during the meeting Wednesday night that an additional 2 million people might have voted if they hadn't been blocked by barricades put up by anti-government protesters.


8:20 p.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the constituent assembly being granted nearly unlimited power to revamp the nation's government won't convene Thursday as originally planned.

Maduro says the assembly's installation has been pushed back to Friday in order to "organize it well in peace and tranquility." He says Venezuela's electoral council also must still provide 35 members with their credentials.

He made the announcement Wednesday night during a meeting with nearly 500 of the new delegates.

Venezuela's opposition boycotted the election for delegates and has promised to protest when the assembly is installed.


5:30 p.m.

The European Union is refusing to recognize Venezuela's new assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution, saying it could undermine the country's institutions.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the election of the assembly amid violence over the weekend "has durably worsened the crisis in Venezuela."

She says it raises doubts about whether the body can represent all parts of Venezuelan society.

Mogherini added Wednesday that the EU and its member countries stand ready to "gradually step up their response in case democratic principles are further undermined."

No mention was made of any possible sanctions.


3 p.m.

The head of Venezuela's National Electoral Council is dismissing claims that official voter turnout numbers in a critical election were manipulated.

Tibisay Lucena says allegations by voting software firm Smartmatic that the count was off by at least 1 million votes amount to an "opinion" by a company without access to data determining the results.

She adds that the council reserves the right to seek legal action against what she calls an "irresponsible declaration."

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica announced earlier Wednesday that results recorded by his firm's systems and those reported by Venezuelan officials indicate "without any doubt" that the official turnout figure had been tampered with.

The government-stacked electoral council claims more than 8 million people voted in Sunday's election for a nearly all-powerful constituent assembly. Independent analysts have expressed doubts at that number.


10:35 a.m.

The president of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly says the legislature will call for an investigation into claims that the official turnout figure in Sunday's election was tampered with and there was a discrepancy of at least 1 million votes.

Julio Borges says findings disclosed by voting software company Smartmatic provide "complete confirmation" of what opposition leaders and independent analysts had suspected.

The National Electoral Council reported that more than 8 million Venezuelans cast ballots for delegates to a government-backed, all-powerful assembly with powers to rewrite the constitution and override any other branch of government.

Opposition leaders questioned that figure and at least one exit poll suggested the turnout was less than half that amount.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica announced the discrepancy Wednesday but did not say whether his company's figures were higher or lower than the officially reported turnout.

Borges said lawmakers will ask the nation's chief prosecutor to investigate election board members for potential crimes.


9:10 a.m.

The CEO of the voting technology company Smartmatic says the results of Venezuela's election for an assembly to rewrite the constitution were tampered with.

Antonio Mugica told reporters in London on Wednesday that there was a discrepancy of 1 million votes between the turnout figures announced by the government and those recorded by his systems.

Mugica said "it is therefore with the deepest regret that we have to report that the turnout figures on Sunday, 30 July, for the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela were tampered with."

Smartmatic was a company created by Venezuelans that provided electronic voting machines used during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez.

In recent years it has branched out to provide the same services to countries across the world, while continuing to provide support for elections in Venezuela.


8:50 a.m.

Britain's Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to much of Venezuela amid fears of civil unrest.

Travel advice issued Tuesday notes that all dependents of British Embassy staff have been withdrawn, and it advises travelers to "consider leaving the country by normal commercial means."

The Foreign Office says there is risk of "disruption to transport links in and out of the country. If the political situation worsens, the British embassy may be limited in the assistance that it can provide."

Britain's foreign secretary has also criticized Venezuela's President Nicholas Maduro for his arrest of two opposition leaders. Boris Johnson tweeted: "Hundreds have died during protests against Maduro's actions. Political prisoners must be released + rights, freedoms + democracy respected."


8:30 a.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has urged condemnation of the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for the arrest of two top opposition leaders.

Pence said Wednesday in Montenegro that the United States will "hold Maduro personally responsible for the health and safety" of Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.

The two had been under house arrest but security force officers hustled them off to a military prison before dawn on Tuesday.

Pence says that "in recent days we've seen completion of Venezuela's collapse into dictatorship." He adds "the United States calls all who cherish freedom to condemn the Maduro regime for its abuse of power and its abuse of its own people."

He says, "Venezuela deserves democracy."


This story has been corrected to reflect that the software CEO did not say whether his company's figures were higher or lower than the officially reported turnout.

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