May 21 (UPI) — Venezuelans voted on Sunday to give President Nicolas Maduro a second six-year term.
Maduro, of the ruling United Socialist Party, beat Henri Falcon of the Advanced Progressive Party, with 68 percent of the vote, which was pushed back from late April to give opposition candidates more time to campaign.
In a victory speech, Maduro called for more dialogue in order to assuage political infighting and ease tensions in a country suffering from an economic crisis.
“It has been a heroic, beautiful, popular victory forged in the struggle,” Maduro said, according to Telesur. “I’m the president of all of the Venezuelans. I call for a dialogue process. Permanent dialogue is what Venezuela needs.”
The turnout for Sunday’s election was 48 percent — the lowest since Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998.
But the main opposition coalition discouraged its supporters from casting ballots and Bloomberg reported the United Nations won’t certify the election and the United States won’t recognize its winner.
The election Sunday is “not legitimate,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Sunday on Twitter. “The United States stands with democratic nations around the world in support of the Venezuelan people and their sovereign right to elect their representatives through free and fair elections.”
Falcon took 21 percent of the vote and pastor Javier Bertucci won about 10 percent of the vote.
Venezuela, which is already struggling under hyper-inflation and food shortages, could be hit by more sanctions following Maduro’s expected victory, VOA News reported. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four Venezuelans and three South Florida companies with ties to Venezuela.
The list included José David Cabello Rondón, who leads the country’s tax administration and his brother, Diosdado Cabello Rondón, who is the first-vice president of the United Socialist Party. A Treasury Department release said he is “referred to as the second most powerful man in Venezuela — after Maduro.”
It said Diosdado Cabello Rondón has abused his government positions “in furtherance of his illicit and corrupt activities to control and direct government agencies and military officials in Venezuela.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called for Maduro to resign earlier this month, according to a McClatchy D.C. report.
“For the safety and the security of all people in Latin America, it is time for Maduro to go,” Haley said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert’s job title.