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Pompeo brands Venezuela vote a 'fraud'
[WASHINGTON] US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday denounced legislative elections in Venezuela as "a fraud and a sham" engineered by President Nicolas Maduro.
Victory would let Mr Maduro tighten his grip and weaken his US-backed rival, Juan Guaido, who is leading a boycott of the polls he has also called a fraud.
"What's happening today is a fraud and a sham, not an election," Mr Pompeo tweeted.
The election, contested by about 14,000 candidates from more than 100 parties, comes with the country in deep crisis - suffocated by runaway inflation, lacking water and gas supplies, and afflicted by sudden power cuts.
Victory would give Mr Maduro's ruling Socialist Party control of an expanded 227-seat National Assembly - the only institution not in its hands.
Initial turnout was low, however, with many polling stations in Caracas either empty or with few voters.
Venezuela also has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and voters were obliged to wear masks and practice spacing inside polling stations.