Candidate for Assembly, Three Others Killed in Venezuela on Election Day

Monday, 31 Jul, 2017

In Venezuela, opposition leaders refused to put up candidates, arguing the election has been structured to ensure that Maduro's ruling socialist party dominates.

Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly will be able to make decisions defining the authority of the National Assembly, the country's parliament, and to reform the Office of the Prosecutor General, the head of the government's election campaign, Hector Rodriguez, told Sputnik.

Despite four months of deadly protests and the threat of US sanctions, Venezuela on Saturday found itself 24 hours away from a consolidation of government power that appeared certain to drag the OPEC nation deeper into a crisis that has entire neighborhoods battling police and paramilitaries while the poor root for scraps in piles of trash.

Maduro appeared unconcerned by the mounting global outcry, instead paying homage Friday to the late President Hugo Chavez on what would have been his predecessor's 63rd birthday, telling supporters that with the constitution rewrite, "Chavez is more alive than ever". The most recent violence drove the death toll from almost four months of unrest above 100 Thursday, July 27.

Maduro decreed a ban on protests during and after the vote, threatening prison terms of up to 10 years for anyone violating the order.

"We've stoically withstood the terrorist, criminal violence", Maduro said.

"I hope the constituent assembly will bring us the peace and unity that we need, so that we can solve the problems we face as a nation", said university professor Mariela Martins. "Hopefully the world will respectfully extend its arms toward our country".

In the weeks leading up to the vote, opposition leaders organized a referendum against the new assembly. Food, medicines and staple products are scarce.

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He is attempting to bolster his power by creating a new assembly which will tear up the constitution and effectively create a one-party state.

The election, and opposition rejection of it, has heightened the sense of alarm among Venezuela's citizens, who are finding it increasingly hard to survive among food shortages and runaway inflation.

The 545-member citizens' assembly will be tasked with rewriting the constitution and be empowered to dissolve the opposition-controlled Congress.

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 United States, who already impose sanctions against Venezuela, stepped up the pressure with President Trump promisingexternal link "strong and swift economic actions" if the assembly comes into effect.

The government enacted a harsh crackdown on protests that has left more than 100 Venezuelans dead.

The opposition has urged a boycott of the "fraudulent" vote, making it likely that only government supporters will cast ballots.