Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Gunmen attack Venezuelan voters in anti-Maduro ballot, 1 dead

Fresno residents stand in solidarity with Venezuela protesters Woman killed, 3 wounded as tensions rise with Venezuela vote
Lillian Steele | 18 July, 2017, 00:42

Maduro's opponents are pressuring him to drop a plan to rewrite the constitution and hold early elections. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices.

Recently, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, who has worked closely with the U.S. state department and Venezuela, asked Cuba's Raul Castro, a close ally of Maduro, to intervene in the conflict. Opposition leaders said that was because it was only able to set up 2,000 polling stations.

Venezuelan opposition leaders are calling for a 24-hour national strike starting Thursday to protest government plans to rewrite the constitution and consolidate political power.

Venezuelans living overseas were also given a chance to vote, with impromptu stations in the US, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Columbia - all popular destinations for the ever increasing number of refugees fleeing the crisis in Venezuela.

Deadly violence returned as a 61-year-old woman was killed and three other people wounded when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on people lined up to vote in Catia, a working-class neighborhood in the capital, prosecutors said.

Most Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, which will have power to rewrite the constitution and annul the current opposition-led legislature, but Maduro is pressing on anyway for the vote in two weeks' time.

"It clearly states that Maduro is as deeply unpopular as he has always been thought to be, and it shows, as the polls have suggested, that Venezuelans are overwhelmingly against the idea of establishing a constitutional assembly", Philip reports.

Opposition members dance outside of a poll station during a symbolic referendum in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 16, 2017.

"Overall the package is pretty radical, especially the idea of a parallel government", said David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela.

Any stepped-up confrontation between the opposition and the government threatened to deepen a political crisis that, since the beginning of April, has left 100 people dead.

Analysts say that if Maduro loses the support of the military his rule is all but finished.

In the wake of Nicolas Maduro succeeding former socialist president Hugo Chavez after the latter died from cancer in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval.

"I want to go back, but I want to go back to something good, something where I know my future is going to be good", she said.

Some have said that the "popular consultation" is illegitimate, as it lacked the backing of the state - which, instead, held its own "practice vote" for the constituent assembly that is scheduled for 30 July.

NPR's Philip Reeves notes that number - which includes almost 700,000 expatriots who voted overseas - constitutes about a third of Venezuela's registered voters.

Venezuela has been plagued by daily outbursts of anger over food shortages and an economic crisis characterised by rampant inflation. However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

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