Venezue­lans cast bal­lots in op­po­si­tion vote

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Cara­cas, Venezuela - Polls opened in Venezuela on Sun­day in an op­po­si­tion-or­gan­ised vote to mea­sure pub­lic sup­port for Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s plan to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion, against a back­drop of wors­en­ing po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence.

Dozens of peo­ple queued up in Cara­cas neigh­bour­hoods in­clud­ing Cha­caito and Los Pa­los Gran­des be­fore polling sta­tions opened at 7.00am (1100 GMT), ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic Unity Round­table (MUD) op­po­si­tion coali­tion.

Del­e­gates and vol­un­teers, many dressed in white, manned tents and ta­bles at some 14,300 polling sta­tions na­tion­wide.

Maduro sup­port­ers are boy­cotting the vote, and the Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil has re­fused to au­tho­rise it, so the out­come is not bind­ing.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers ex­pect as many as 11mn of peo­ple to cast bal­lots any­way, vot­ing to re­ject the pres­i­dent’s con­tro­ver­sial plan for a sep­a­rate ref­er­en­dum July 30 to elect a con­stituent as­sem­bly to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion.

The op­po­si­tion is boy­cotting the Maduro-backed vote.

A big turnout on Sun­day will in­crease pres­sure for Maduro’s re­moval from power, clear­ing the way for new pres­i­den­tial elec­tions be­fore his term ends in Jan­uary 2019.

The ri­val elec­tions have given rise to in­ter­na­tional wor­ries - voiced by the Catholic Church and UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res - that the chances of bring­ing both sides to­gether for di­a­logue have be­come more re­mote. That in turn is stok­ing fears of more protests and run­ning street bat­tles with po­lice.

Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro

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