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Venezuela oppo holds unofficial plebiscite to defy Maduro

17 Julio 2017

The constituent assembly that has not been approved by voters; they were asked whether they wanted the country's armed forces to uphold the current Constitution and the decisions of the opposition-run National Assembly; and whether they wanted free elections to pick a new "national unity government". The most stark was the rebellion of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who came out against the Constituent Assembly.

"The Venezuelan authorities should not interfere with peaceful demonstrations, and indeed are obliged to actively protect assemblies", Ciampi said in a statement.

Maduro's government on Sunday is also holding an electoral event - essentially a trial run of the upcoming Constituent Assembly. They're worried it could lead to the end of state governments and to the abolition of the office of the chief prosecutor, who's the strongest opponent of the government of Maduro at this time within the establishment.

Government officials say the plebiscite violates laws requiring elections to be organised by the elections council.

"If I was one of Nicolas Maduro's advisers, I would tell him to look at what's happening all over the country [and] stop trying to impose this constituent on the people", said Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of Miranda state.

But the atmosphere was mostly festive on Sunday under the Caribbean sun, with people blasting music, honking from their cars and waving flags.

The symbolic vote comes amid widespread protests from activists responding to the once prosperous country's economic descent, and the Associated Press reports nearly 100 protesters have been killed in clashes with police since unrest began in April, while 1,500 have been wounded and over 500 arrested.

The population in the oil-rich South American nation, meanwhile, is suffering a crushing economic crisis, with shortages of food and medicine and triple-digit inflation.

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With improvised polling stations in more than 80 countries, the vote also includes the participation of the swelling ranks of Venezuelans who have moved abroad. The opposition is boycotting the Maduro-backed vote.

The opposition group claims to have printed 14 million ballots for voters inside and outside the country.

But voters seemed set to reject the president's controversial plan for a separate referendum in two weeks to elect a citizens' body to revise the constitution. "Being so far away, the options of being able to vote are very limited". "Now they've invented this July 16 thing to put the burden on their own people and evade their responsibility", Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said Saturday.

Harvey, 58, was among thousands of local Venezuelans to cast votes at Are Pitas restaurant, 2734 University Square Drive, which doubled as one of five polling places in the Tampa Bay area.

The violence confirmed fears surrounding an electoral tussle between the opposition and Maduro, focused on the beleaguered president's bid to rewrite the constitution. It's been organized by Venezuela's opposition parties.

"In Mexico, I arrived at 12pm to vote, and I finished at 5:30pm, and there were still more people waiting to vote", Maria, a Venezuelan entrepreneur, told Al Jazeera.

A convention that was held in Venezuela in 1999 to draft a new Constitution.

REEVES: No, it doesn't have any legal force.

Venezuela oppo holds unofficial plebiscite to defy Maduro