Venezuela opposition plots 'zero hour,' government calls vote a 'fraud'

Katrina Barker
July 18, 2017

They were asked if they approve the new Constituent Assembly proposed by President Nicolas Maduro; if they want the armed forces to protect the constitution of 1999; and if they want the formation of a national unity government and fresh elections.

Venezuela saw its feuding political factions - the government and the opposition - both prepare their own polls on Sunday to challenge the legimacy of each other's survey of public opinions on the creation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

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 they were able to set up only 2,000 polling places in a symbolic exercise the government labeled as illegitimate.

The president urged the opposition to "come over to peace, to the constitution", telling officials who were setting up his July 30 election that differences "must be resolved in peace, with ballots, not bullets".

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.

Venezuelan bishops have warned that President Maduro is seeking to establish a "socialist, Marxist and militaristic" state as tensions continue to rise in the Latin American country.

Mr Maduro and military dominate most state institutions, but the Opposition controls Congress and holds three of 23 governorships.

PA Wire
Spotlight: Venezuela plagued by political crisis, US threatens with "economic actions"

I'm not sure there is any going backwards from here.

Venezuelans frustrated by food shortages, triple-digit inflation and a homicide rate that ranks among the highest in the world took to the streets in early April after a Supreme Court decision stripping the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its remaining powers.

"Overall this vote, I think, makes it hard for the government to just proceed as planned", Smilde said.

"Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people", said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker waiting outside a school in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years. The country's chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.

The opposition only released turnout numbers, not tallies of responses, although virtually all who voted were believed to have answered "yes" to the central rejection of the constitutional rewrite.

Mogherini suggested that "a large part of the population clearly does not seem to support the Constituent Assembly" and that there is a need of exploring "urgent peaceful solutions". The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers.

Venezuela's opposition vowed on Monday to escalate protests after a massive vote against President Nicolas Maduro in an unofficial plebiscite that the leftist government mocked as a "gigantic fraud".

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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