Venezuelans Prepare To Vote On Constitutional Referendum

Lucena said the election process for the National Constituent Assembly is audited by local and worldwide entities, and that her organization will ensure and protect the Venezuelan people's right to vote, despite recent threats by the opposition to stage violent protests and prevent the election. On Friday, the Venezuelan government banned demonstrations ahead of this weekend's election.

Violators will be "punished with imprisonment for 5 to 10 years", Reverol warned.

The imminent election of a constituent assembly has been broadly condemned by countries around the world as a weakening of democratic governance in the OPEC nation, which is also struggling under a crippling economic crisis.

It comes as the number of people killed in the anti-government clashes reached over 100.

The EU, UN and heavyweight nations in the Organization of American States have all also urged Maduro to drop his controversial plan.

"We will be checking people coming from other centers (.) so we can know if people are authorized to vote", Lucena said.

Opposition has called for a "Take Over of Venezuela" march on Friday against President Maduro's Constituent Assembly vote on Friday.


While it remains hard to estimate how many of Venezuela's 2.8 million state workers will vote, most interviewees said a significant majority probably will, either out of allegiance or out of fear.

"What's at stake is nothing less than the loss of freedom of Venezuela and the initiation of the Cuban model in a false, illegal, constitutional way", Diego Arria, a former governor of Caracas and an opposition leader living in the USA, told ABC News. Although the ruling was partially rescinded, street protests have continued over food scarcities, rising crime and Maduro's autocratic actions, including what some describe as an illegal effort to rewrite the constitution.

Many believe it's a move by the president, Nicolas Maduro, to establish a full dictatorship.

The sanctions noose could get tighter if Maduro pushes ahead with a vote on Sunday that would likely redraft the Venezuelan constitution in his favor.

The protests and strikes were part of an opposition strategy to force Maduro from power through early elections.

The Constituent Assembly would have power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the existing opposition-led legislature, which the opposition says would cement dictatorship in Venezuela. If they have a majority as they say they do [in the National Assembly], take it easily, run, take the majority of the constituents and shape the constitution. "And that's what we're working on", Molina said.

Protests during the stoppage have left three people dead - two men, aged 30 and 23, in the western province of Merida, and a 14-year-old boy in an eastern Caracas slum, according to prosecutors.


Though the opposition won control of the National Assembly in 2015 elections, it is essentially void because pro-Maduro legislators stopped attending sessions.

And with opposition groups vowing to boycott Sunday's vote, it's unlikely that it will bring unity.

Given Canada's concerns about the Maduro regime, Ms. Todgham Cherniak said she wonders why the government has not yet sanctioned any Venezuelans.

Fears of open civil conflict have prompted thousands of Venezuelans to join an exodus into Colombia.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12% this year, after a contraction of 18% last year, according to the latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund.

On Thursday, the United States ordered families of its embassy staff in Venezuela to leave.



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