Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote
MORE than seven million Venezuelans lined up across the country and around the world on Sunday to vote on President Nicolas Maduro’s rewrite of the Constitution.
The proposed changes have fueled tensions in the oil-rich country, which has been hard hit by shortages and violent government crackdowns on protests in recent months.
More than 100 people have died in political clashes since April.
The vote in the unofficial, Opposition-organised referendum was just short of the 7.7 million who voted for the Opposition in Congress.
A woman aged 61 died and four people were wounded by gunshots when government supporters swarmed an opposition polling site in the capital, Caracas.
Mr Maduro called for an end to violence, which he blamed on the Opposition, but made no mention of the incident in comments just after the poll closed at 4pm.
“I’m calling on the Opposition to return to peace, to respect for the Constitution, to sit and talk,” he said on television.
“Let’s start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace.”
Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada tweeted he was banning former Mexican president Vicente Fox from the country for “conspiring to promote violence and foreign intervention”.
Mr Fox went to Venezuela on Saturday in a group of Latin American former presidents to support the Opposition referendum.
Mr Maduro and military dominate most state institutions, but the Opposition controls Congress and holds three of 23 governorships.
The Opposition called backers to vote on three questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised both of Maduro backers and opponents?
MAKING A STAND: Against a backdrop of former president the late Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans wait to vote in the “people’s consultation” in Caracas on Sunday.
LET PEOPLE DECIDE: A voter casts her ballot in Caracas.