News Worms
News Worms

Voting starts in controversial Venezuela election

Voting starts in controversial Venezuela election

Critics say the assembly will allow Maduro to dissolve the opposition-run Congress, delay future elections and rewrite electoral rules to prevent the socialists from being voted out of power in the once-prosperous South American nation.

Jose Felix Pineda, a 39-year-old lawyer on a ticket to become part of a Constituent Assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution, was killed in the middle of the night in his home in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar.

On the eve of the vote, protesters blocked roads in the capital in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.

Others said they were there out of conviction that the constitutional assembly would help the government fend off what they called an worldwide capitalist conspiracy to undermine Venezuela's socialist system with the help of the domestic opposition.

The last time a National Constituent Assembly was convened in 1999.

Maduro, who took over from charismatic President Chavez in 2013, maintains that resurrecting the constituent assembly - a group of 181 people directly chosen by the government, plus 364 directly-elected - is the best way to safeguard "the peace of the country".

A statement says Pence delivered a message Friday on behalf of President Donald Trump that the United States stands with the Venezuelan people.

Maduro kicked off voting by casting his ballot in a west Caracas polling station.

Turnout will be key to determining the legitimacy of the election.

Polls suggest a large majority of Venezuelans oppose the assembly.

Fear of the violence worsening has rippled across the region, and beyond.

More than 19 million Venezuelans were called to this democratic election.

Air France and Iberia both announced they were suspending their flights to the country during the weekend vote.

The United States has already leveled sanctions at 13 current and former Venezuelan officials, and said further action could be "on the table".

"We're going to keep fighting, we're not leaving the streets", said opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan.

Venezuelans appear to be abstaining in massive numbers in a show of silent protest against a vote to select a constitutional assembly giving the government virtually unlimited powers.

The head of Datanalisis, Luis Vicente Leon, said the Constituent Assembly was being formed because the uncharismatic Maduro - whose term is meant to finish next year - "can't win elections".

Neighboring Colombia - a refuge for tens of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the chaos at home - said on Friday it would not recognize the results of Sunday's election in Venezuela.

The opposition, other Latin American nations, the U.S. and the European Union see the new body as a tool to crush democracy in the oil-rich country, where the opposition controls the National Assembly.

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

Elsewhere, streets in Venezuela have been largely deserted with just a trickle of people heading to vote in the widely criticised elections.


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