Venezuelans brace for unrest ahead of vote

Posted July 31, 2017

The most recent violence drove the death toll from almost four months of unrest above 100 Thursday, July 27.

The opposition is boycotting Sunday's vote, contending the election has been structured to ensure Maduro's socialist party continues to dominate.

José Felix Pineda, a lawyer running in the election, was shot in his home Saturday night, a senior Venezuelan minister told the BBC. Of the dozens of others sites seen by the AP, two in the loyalist-heavy neighborhood of El Valle had lines of approximately 200 to 400 people.

In eastern Caracas, four soldiers were wounded when an improvised explosive targeted their motorbike convoy.

The security forces have used armoured vehicles to dispel protesters in the Caracas district of El Paraíso amid the sound of gunfire, AFP says, citing local reports.

Soldiers also violently moved against protesters in the second city of Maracaibo, in the west, and Puerto Ordaz in the east.

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In a country virtually paralyzed with near daily anti-government street demonstrations, military officials say they have deployed over 100,000 troops nationwide to secure preparations for Sunday's vote. "I ask God for his blessings so the people can freely exercise their democratic right to vote", he said.

The new, all-powerful assembly is due to sit within 72 hours of results being officially certified. But that will be hard to ascertain as most voters will be able to vote twice, as candidates are drawn from social and industry sectors as well as geographically.

President Maduro insists the new assembly is the only way to haul Venezuela out of its economic and political crisis, but has not explained how a new constitution would do so.

Maduro's decree cracking down on demonstrations warned that those taking part risked up to 10 years in prison.

"Violence must never be the way to solve social conflicts that worsen day by day in our Venezuelan society".

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

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

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

But more than 80% of Venezuelans disapprove of his management of the country and 72 per cent for the project, according to the institute of polls from Datanalisis. So all 5,500 candidates for the 545 seats in the constituent assembly are his supporters and the vote's success is being measured by turnout. "But it's only aggravating them". The opposition has made suspension of the Constituent Assembly a condition for it to join talks.

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

The US has suggested further sanctions could follow.

Some in Maduro's administration have broken ranks with him, most prominently his attorney general.

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