7 million Venezuelans vote against plan to rewrite constitution

Handout.  Reuters
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony at the National Pantheon in Caracas

Handout. Reuters Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony at the National Pantheon in Caracas

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).

Sunday's almost 7.2 million participation compared with 7.7 million opposition votes in the 2015 legislative elections that it won by a landslide and 7.3 million votes for the opposition in a 2013 presidential poll narrowly won by Maduro.

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The opposition blamed the attack on "paramilitary groups" linked to the government. "We have given an indisputable mandate for a new Venezuela starting tomorrow".

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reiterated his call for political dialogue with the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) on Sunday.

"I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk", Maduro said.

Late Sunday, the prosecutor-general issued a statement stating that a shooting at the town of Catia, west of Caracas, had killed Scott and three others outside a voting centre. That rewrite would have the capacity to dissolve the National Assembly, an opposition-heavy body of lawmakers that has been a source of frustration for Maduro for years.

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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. Basic necessities, such as medicine and food, are in short supply.

In three questions at Sunday's event, opposition supporters voted overwhelmingly - by 98 percent - to reject the proposed new assembly, urge the military to defend the existing constitution, and support elections before Maduro's term ends, according to academics monitoring the vote for the opposition.

Results showed 98.5 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the armed forces protecting the constitution following the decisions of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was declared in contempt by the Supreme Court past year, stripping it of its powers.

Inviting people to participate in the popular consultation, he said that it was about the people expressing its will with "sovereignty", and that the Church, together with "every thinking institution" in the country, wants change.

It's good to remember that the oil-rich nation is facing a humanitarian crisis.

The symbolic plebiscite was aimed at denting Maduro's legitimacy further amid a crippling economic crisis that has left millions struggling to eat and months of anti-government unrest that has killed almost 100 people.

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