Venezuela vote triggers deadly conflict in the streets

Audrey Hill
July 31, 2017

A leading candidate in today's assembly elections and an opposition activist have been killed in Venezuela.

The special assembly being selected Sunday will have powers to rewrite the country's 1999 constitution but will also have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

The opposition had called for a boycott and mass demonstrations against the election, which it called a bid by Maduro to install a dictatorship with the backing of the military.

Santos says he will continue advocating for a peaceful resolution to Venezuela's almost four months of political upheaval that has left at least 113 people dead.

Jose Felix Pineda, 39, a lawyer running in the election, was shot in his home on Saturday night, a senior Venezuelan minister said.

Ricardo Campos, who worked as a youth secretary with the opposition Accion Democratica party, was killed during the protest, the head of the national assembly said, according to the BBC.

In this regard, he said that the people have been firm to defend the legacy of Commander Hugo Chavez, the Liberator Simon Bolivar and other heroes in the history of Venezuela.

That's despite an election-time ban on street demonstrations by Maduro, who warned that anyone who defied his orders could face up to 100 years in prison.

In the west of Caracas, national guard troops fanning out to put down any disruption to the election used armored vehicles and fired teargas to disperse protesters blocking roads.

"The UK joins with the Vatican, the neighbours of Venezuela and our European friends to urge the government to enter constructive talks with the Opposition".

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Polls suggest a large majority of Venezuelans oppose the assembly.

The tragic death comes as dozens of Venezuelans gather early at voting centres in Caracas, saying they plan to cast ballots because they hope their lives will improve.

Colombia says it will grant temporary legal status to more than 150,000 Venezuelans who have overstayed visas due to the deteriorating political and economic crisis in their home country.

The US, the European Union and Latin American powers, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, have come out against the election, saying it would destroy Venezuelan democracy.

Families of U.S. diplomats have been ordered to leave following the imposition of American sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan officials.

But Maduro has insisted that the "card that will win this game" is the election of the new assembly.

Several foreign airlines have suspended flights to the country, and families of United States diplomats there have been ordered to leave.

Panama has followed suit, and also backed USA sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

As Maduro effectively steers his country toward one-party rule, he sets it on a collision course with the United States, which buys almost half of Venezuela's oil. Two diplomats resigned this week in dissent: one at the United Nations and another at the embassy in Panama.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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