Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote

Elias Hubbard
July 17, 2017

As Julio Borges, who heads the National Assembly, puts it: "We don't want to be Cuba".

Energized by a massive vote against President Nicolas Maduro in an unofficial plebiscite, Venezuela's opposition mulled on Monday how to escalate protests and block a new congress it fears may enshrine Socialist Party hegemony.

Over 7 million out of 19.5 million eligible voters have participated in the opposition poll, nearly the number of 7.7 million voters who backed the opposition in the last presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the opposition praised the vote as proof that Venezuelans demand democratic change.

Canada and Mexico were among the countries that issued statements Sunday evening lauding the opposition vote.

Maduro's government has simultaneously held a "dry run" vote to practice the upcoming July 30 referendum.

The referendum Sunday was also marred by violence.

However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

The opposition blamed the attack on "paramilitary groups" linked to the government.

The proposed changes have fueled tensions in the oil-rich country, which has been hard hit by shortages and violent government crackdowns on protests in recent months.

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.

The Protesters' motivation was boosted at the beginning of May when Maduro announced he would call up a constituent assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. The actual election is due to take place on July 30.

"We don't want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us".

More than 7.1 million Venezuelans participated in the vote on Sunday, and opposition leaders hailed the results.

More than 100,000 people turned out to vote in South Florida.

According Cecilia GarcĂ­a Arocha, rector of the Central University of Venezuela, 7,186,170 votes were in favor of the opposition.

Voters strongly opposed government plans for a new constituent assembly with the power to scrap the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution.

The opposition plans to burn ballot papers from the informal poll so those who voted against the government can not be identified and victimized. Collectives related to the regime of Nicolas Maduro shot against the voters.

"They have convened an internal consultation with the opposition parties, with their own mechanisms, without electoral rulebooks, without prior verification, without further verification".

A view of confrontations between pro and anti-government demonstrators as members of the police patrol the area during an unofficial referendum organized by the opposition in Caracas, Venezuela, 16 July 2017.

"We can assume that the number of people voting was less than that which would turn out to vote in a regular election".

"It clearly states that Maduro is as deeply unpopular as he has always been thought to be, and it shows, as the polls have suggested, that Venezuelans are overwhelmingly against the idea of establishing a constitutional assembly", Philip reports.

"I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk", Maduro said.

Recounting the votes at one of the polling stations in Caracas on Sunday July 16, 2017.

The chief prosecutor's office confirmed Escot - who was a nurse - had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

"That was the fear they had of a recall referendum and for that reason prevented it", he said about the vote that was requested by the opposition and obstructed by judicial measures previous year.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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