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Maduro presses on with Venezuela vote despite protests, condemnation
30 July 2017, 12:10 | Nichole Osborne
Venezuela bans protests ahead of controversial vote
With these two victims, a total of six people have died since July 26, the first day of the 48-hour general strike called by the opposition against the election of a National Constituent Assembly scheduled for Sunday. But as many as half of all Venezuelans support neither the government nor the opposition - a phenomenon evident in the glum paralysis that has gripped much of the country as protesters and police wage nightly battles.
From Friday, those taking part in rallies, demonstrations, marches that "could disturb or affect" the vote planned for Sunday would face between five and 10 years in prison, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said, reading a presidential decree. "This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the goal of transforming the State, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new Constitution". At least 100 people have been killed. He said the office of Venezuela's chief prosecutor, who recently became one of Maduro's most outspoken critics, would be "turned upside down".
Its oil exports to the US totaled $10.2 billion in the year ending in May, according to Panjiva, a global trade research firm.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 13 current and former government officials in Venezuela for their role in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to silence his opponents.
"We have to do everything possible to halt the constitutional assembly", said Maria Medina, an office administrator who was waiting in line at a state-run bank that opened.
Still, Maduro dismissed that vote as "a meaningless internal exercise" and vowed to plow ahead with his own, which the opposition has promised to boycott. On Friday, the Venezuelan government banned demonstrations ahead of this weekend's election. While Ms. Polga said she was grateful to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for her statement welcoming the US sanctions this week, she said the government must "take action".
The new assembly would comprise 545 citizens chosen from across the country, and from societal sectors over which Maduro's government holds influence.
The CNE leader said the voting centers will transmit voter data to a server that will inform them whether the person is eligible to vote. Protesters are planning to expand their demonstrations, and officials are anxious those protests could turn violent.
Some employees said they would vote on Sunday to avoid the fate of those fired after a government lawmaker published a list of Venezuelans who signed a petition demanding a recall referendum against Chavez.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Friday the Andean country will not recognize the result of an "illegitimate" assembly vote in neighboring Venezuela, amid opposition concerns that the election will lead to dictatorship.
The United Nations human rights office said it was "deeply concerned" about the "very tense and very hard situation" in Venezuela. "They took his violin and hit him with it", Romero said.
Santos says he will continue advocating for a peaceful resolution to Venezuela's almost four months of political upheaval that has left at least 113 people dead.
Despite this being quickly reversed, the decision ignited a protest movement against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
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