Maduro presses on with polls despite protests

30 July, 2017, 00:25 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • 5 Killed in Violence during Venezuelan Opposition's General Strike against Maduro Regime

The protest ban was issued on the second of a two-day national strike organised by the opposition in an attempt to thwart President Nicolas Maduro's plans to elect a Constituent Assembly that would have the power to rewrite the constitution.

More than 100 people have died in four months of anti- government protests.

Protests are banned through Tuesday, and violators could get prison sentences of five to 10 years, said Néstor Reverol, the interior and justice minister.

Meanwhile, Maduro on Thursday also called for talks with the opposition coalition to resolve the country's political crisis.

At least seven of those deaths happened Wednesday and Thursday during a two-day opposition-led general strike.

But he has not explained what should be changed from the current constitution, nor what specific reforms would put an end to Venezuela's political and economic crisis.

Thirteen countries in the 35-member Organization of American States, a regional political bloc, urged Maduro to suspend Sunday's election.

"July 30 brings a total renovation, a rebirth of the original Bolivarian spirit, a rebirth of peace and a homeland of equality", Maduro said Thursday, referring to the movement started by Hugo Chavez, according to VTV.

Over 100 people have died in anti-government unrest convulsing Venezuela since April, when the opposition launched protests demanding conventional elections to end almost two decades of socialist rule.

But Maduro repeated "there was no going back" during a public ceremony where he said the process will be "a great space for dialogue" that will serve to build a "new productive economy". El Aissami is the most senior Venezuelan official ever targeted by the U.S.

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"The usual suspects came out to say Maduro had become insane".

"They are mistaken, the people have no fear and will not stop struggling in the streets of Venezuela", said opposition legislator Freddy Guevara.

Venezuela's constitution was written during a previous national constituent assembly in 1999 under then-President Chavez. Maduro attempted to strip the opposition-dominated Congress of its powers.

President Donald Trump has said the US will take "strong and swift economic actions" if the constituent assembly election proceeds.

For his part, Maduro called Trump an "emperor".

"We continue to implement security measures to guarantee Venezuelans the extra security we are accustomed to", Lucena said in an interview.

"Opposition leaders are continuing to try to convince their supporters and Venezuelans to go out en-masse - they say they have to take to the streets, they can't let up pressure now with less than 48 hours before that vote".

That's unlikely, however, as the opposition has said it won't negotiate unless the constituent assembly is canceled.

The flagship airline in neighboring Colombia said it was suspending all flights to Venezuela, citing security concerns. Many Venezuelans live hand-to-mouth and say they must keep working. The new constituent assembly، comprising 545 members، will rival the National Assembly، now controlled by the opposition.

Venezuela's opposition, bolstered by an unofficial vote on July 16 that saw a third of the electorate reject Maduro's plan, has called for a vote boycott. The upheaval was motivated by the Venezuelan Supreme Court's dissolution of parliament in late March and the transfer of legislative powers to the court. Inflation has soared, and unemployment could reach 25% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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