Crisis Intensifies In Venezuela Ahead Of Controversial Vote

Violet Powell
July 30, 2017

The Venezuelan government on Friday ordered a ban on demonstrations, amid a two-day strike against proposed constitutional reforms.

Protests that could "affect" the controversial Constituent Assembly vote this weekend will be banned, the government of Venezuela announced on Thursday.

Arteaga has said he will continue to play with protesters until Maduro releases all political prisoners and stops the repression against protesters who are exhausted of the food and medicine shortages.

Since April, more than 100 people have been killed and more than 1,900 people have been injured in the country's ongoing political crisis.

That has prompted thousands of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring Colombia this week.

Venezuelan leaders, in turn, have accused Rubio and the Central Intelligence Agency of trying to topple Venezuela's government to put their own leaders with US interests in charge of the country.

Worldwide pressure to cancel the vote intensified Friday, with Vice President Mike Pence reiterating in a telephone call with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez that the United States would respond with "strong and swift economic actions" if the election proceeds.

Speaking to RT, a former Venezuelan permanent representative to the United Nations and prominent opposition figure, Diego Aria, said the vote is aimed at overriding the opposition-controlled parliament by the "unconstitutional" elections.

"What's at stake is nothing less than the loss of freedom of Venezuela and the initiation of the Cuban model in a false, illegal, constitutional way", Diego Arria, a former governor of Caracas and an opposition leader living in the US, told ABC News. Almost half said they believe the goal of the assembly is to ensure Maduro stays in power.

In Barinas, home state of former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, only about a third of businesses were closed according to a Reuters witness, as opposed to the opposition's formal estimate of 90 percent participation nationally.

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The Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials on Wednesday, heaping pressure on unpopular President Nicolas Maduro to scrap plans for the new congress.

With private discussions reportedly failing, Venezuelan state media claimed Friday that Maduro has made a public plea for dialogue with the opposition. "And that card is the National Constituent Assembly", he said.

As of Friday, at least 113 people have died in protests and other incidents linked to the unrest, the attorney general's office has said, often without elaborating on who was responsible for their deaths.

The Constituent Assembly will comprise 545 elected representatives, 364 of whom will come from municipal circumscriptions (one from each, except state capitals which will get two, and Caracas, which will get seven).

The United Nations human rights office said it was "deeply concerned" about the "very tense and very hard situation" in Venezuela.

The protests began following a Supreme Court ruling that stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its remaining powers.

And with opposition groups vowing to boycott Sunday's vote, it's unlikely that it will bring unity.

Opposition supporters clash with security forces during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 20, 2017. "Tomorrow we will no longer take the streets in Caracas but in all Venezuela!", Guevara wrote on Twitter, just minutes after Reverol's speech.

The opposition and USA moves are to force Maduro to give up his plan to have a 545-member "Constituent Assembly" elected on Sunday.

The United States would follow up with further "strong and swift economic action" if the vote happens, senior U.S. officials have said. Inflation has soared, and unemployment could reach 25% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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