Venezuelans cast ballots in opposition vote
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