The results are in. Venezuela's National Electoral Council announced July 31 that the voter turnout in support of the new constituent assembly reached 8.1 million votes, while the opposition claimed that only 2.5 million people voted. The government's claim, however, is likely untrue. After all, the 2012 presidential elections of former President Hugo Chavez, when the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was still popular, received over 8 million votes. Still, allies of the PSUV managed to win all 545 seats in the new legislative body on July 30, despite violent confrontations between government forces and opposition protesters. Among the elected representatives for the new constituent assembly are former head of Congress Diosdado Cabello, former Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz and former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez.
But what's really notable about the vote was the fact that the Venezuelan government decided to move forward with its new constituent assembly, aimed at rewriting the constitution, in spite of international pressure, such as additional sanctions from the United States. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said July 30 that the Venezuelan election was another step toward dictatorship and that the United States will not accept the results. Also, 10 Latin American countries decided to call a meeting for Aug. 8 in Lima, Peru, to discuss Venezuela's political situation. (Some of these countries could easily coordinate financial sanctions against high-ranking Venezuelan officials.)
More important, the United States could announce more stringent sanctions targeting the Venezuelan oil industry as early as July 31. The sanctions would likely include a ban on the sale of lighter U.S. crude that Venezuela mixes with its heavy crude and then exports, or even more crippling, secondary sanctions that would restrict the sale of oil and oil products to other countries.
A blanket prohibition on conducting business with Venezuela's state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) would create more problems for the government, as would any attempt to complicate PDVSA's ability to process payments through the U.S. financial system. If the United States imposes secondary sanctions on Venezuela's oil exports, then PDVSA oil exports will suffer further decline, food imports will drop within months, and social unrest will rise in Venezuela.
More protests against the constituent assembly are expected. Venezuela's opposition political coalition, Democratic Unity Roundtable, announced national protests against the new constituent assembly as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro refused to cancel the voting. On the contrary, Maduro warned July 31 that the new legislative body could lift parliamentary immunity of current members of the National Assembly, comprised of many opposition lawmakers, as well as restructure the General Prosecutor's Office.