Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Maduro Foes Urge Escalated Protests in Venezuela

Maduro Foes Urge Escalated Protests in Venezuela

Polls opened in Venezuela on Sunday in an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, against a backdrop of worsening political violence, reported AFP.Dozens of people were queuing in Caracas neighborhoods including Chacaito and Los Palos Grandes before polling stations opened at 7:00 am (1100 GMT).

"The day was stained by the killing of a Venezuelan woman who was protesting and exercising her rights", said opposition leader Freddy Guevara of the killing of Xiomara Escot.

The turnout is slightly smaller than the 7.7 million people who voted for opposition candidates at the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Maduro and his officials have repeatedly said the opposition's poll is not a legitimate electoral procedure and called the results "meaningless".

A week earlier Oscar Perez, a police officer, stole a helicopter and launched an attack against Venezuela's pro-government Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry in Caracas. Greeting the Venezuelan Catholic community in Italy, he renewed his prayer for this "beloved country".

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

Given the option of answering yes or no to three questions, the overwhelming majority of participants - more than 98 percent - rejected the proposal for a Constituent Assembly, called for elections before the end of Maduro's current term in 2019, and said the armed forces should defend the present constitution. "Today we're following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro ..."

Maduro tried to counter the show of support by the opposition by holding a "practice vote" for his new constitutional assembly at the same time.

At an opposition site nearby, Juan Madriz, a 45-year-old insurance company employee, said he didn't object to rewriting the constitution per se, but rejected Maduro's decision to do so without putting that decision to a vote, as his predecessor Hugo Chavez did.

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

"One particular thing that makes this act unlawful is that they never consulted with the people if they people want to change the constitution".

"We must be aware of the differences we have in the country, we must resolve them with peace, with votes and not bullets, with tolerance, with democracy", continued Maduro. The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers. The anti-government protests, and their clashes with government security forces, have seen almost 100 people killed and more than 1,500 injured in the three and a half months that followed. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices.

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