CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelans stayed away from the polls in huge numbers Sunday in a show of protest against a vote to grant President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party virtually unlimited powers in the face of a brutal socio-economic crisis and a grinding battle with its political opponents and groups of increasingly alienated and violent young protesters.
The government swore to continue its push for total political dominance of this once-prosperous OPEC nation, a move likely to trigger U.S. sanctions and new rounds of the street fighting that has killed at least 122 and wounded nearly 2,000 since protests began in April.
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor’s office reported 10 deaths Sunday in clashes between protesters and police across the country. Seven police officers were wounded when an explosion went off as they drove past piles of trash that had been used to blockade a street in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas.
A growing list of nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the United States said they would not recognize Sunday’s vote — further straining ties to the already isolated nation.
Across the capital of more than 2 million people, dozens of polling places were virtually empty, including many that have seen hours-long lines of thousands voting to keep the government in power over the last two decades. By contrast, at the Poliedro sports and cultural complex in western Caracas, several thousand people waited about two hours to vote, many drawn from opposition-dominated neighborhoods where polling places were closed. But at least three dozen other sites visited by The Associated Press had no more than a few hundred voters at any one time, with many virtually empty.
Despite the visibly low turnout, Diosdado Cabello, the ruling socialist party’s first vice president, proclaimed that there was a “record” turnout that would surprise the opposition. He called Sunday’s vote, “a moral and ethical victory over the right.”
Opposition leaders had called for a boycott of the vote, declaring it rigged for the ruling party, and by late afternoon they were declaring the low turnout a resounding victory. Organizers said preliminary results from observers placed in nearly every Venezuelan municipality indicated a small fraction…