POLITICS

U.S. politicians celebrate Venezuelan opposition’s landslide win over ruling party

Elected officials from both sides of the political aisle welcomed the outcome of Sunday’s legislative election in Venezuela and congratulated the people of the country for making their voices heard in a peaceful manner.

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she kept a close eye on Sunday’s developments. Throughout the day, the Cuban-American lawmaker monitored the reports of voting irregularities, such as pressuring and intimidating voters, but at the end of the day her concerns were wiped out by the unprecedented outcome.

“In spite of many challenges, the Venezuelan opposition has been able to gain control of the National Assembly," Ros-Lehtinen said Monday in a statement.

In stunning fashion, Venezuela’s ruling party lost its hold of the National Assembly for the first time in over a decade -- the opposition coalition secured at least 99 seats in the 167-seat legislature, while the ruling socialist party won 46 seats.

Presidential candidate Marco Rubio trumpeted the results and said the Venezuelan people rejected the Maduro regime and all the misery it has brought to Venezuela.He said Venezuela should act quickly and release all of its political prisoners who have been punished with jail time for speaking their mind. 

"Acknowledging the will of the Venezuelan people by releasing all political prisoners, including Leopoldo Lopez, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, would be a positive start and should happen immediately," Rubio said. 

Sen. Bob Menendez, also of Cuban descent, said in a statement to Fox News Latino that the Venezuelan people displayed a forceful showing of unity.

"No one should be surprised that 17 years of Chavismo have led to democratic deterioration, economic ruin,  rampant criminality and to an increasingly dangerous political polarization," he said. "But Venezuelans took a momentous first step this weekend in correcting course and bringing their country back from the brink of being a failed state by exercising their most fundamental democratic right."

Menendez added: "(President Nicolas) Maduro’s term may not be up yet, but this election was a resounding demonstration of his complete failure."

Secretary of State John Kerry also issued a statement lauding the democratic process.

“Venezuelan voters expressed their overwhelming desire for a change in the direction of their country,” it read.  “Dialogue among all parties in Venezuela is necessary to address the social and economic challenges facing the country, and the United States stands ready to support such a dialogue together with others in the international community.”

While celebrating the historic win, Ros-Lehtinen cautioned that the Obama administration should not see the results as “an excuse to further delay” any pressure on Maduro’s presidency. She called for the U.S. to denounce the abuses and tensions leading up to the elections and to impose sanctions against those responsible for the voting irregularities that took place.

“The continued assaults on democracy by the Maduro regime, such as the sentencing of Leopoldo (Lopez) and the assassination of Luis Manuel Diaz during the campaign, must be a catalyst to impose further sanctions on the regime officials who perpetrate these human rights abuses,” she said in her statement.

Menendez echoed Ros-Lehtinen's call, saying that it is now time for the "international community to maintain pressure on Maduro."

"(It is the time) to speak in unison about consequences to any deviation from an orderly transition of power, and to stand ready to assist as new leadership plots a new course forward for the Venezuelan people," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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