Maduro presses on with Venezuela vote despite protests, condemnation

Reuters

Reuters

Opposition leaders have vowed unrest before the election of a "constituent national assembly" that would rewrite the constitution at Maduro's request - a move that the leftist leader's critics say could consolidate his power and lead to a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos says his country will not recognise the result of Sunday's vote.

In announcing the U.S. sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said America was "standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy". In his mid-20s, Simon Zerpa started working for Maduro in the Foreign Ministry in the so-called “mobile office” which accompanied the president on foreign trips, and as such, worked on all deals with foreign countries, including China. On Friday, the Venezuelan government banned demonstrations ahead of this weekend's election.

Global concern has mounted, with the United States, European Union, United Nations and major Latin American nations urging Mr.

Maduro has not said whether the new constitution would be put to Venezuelans for their approval in a referendum as Chavez's was in 1999. Earlier this month , Zerpa sought to improve communication with investors through invitation-only conference calls, after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was grilled for buying Venezuelan “ hunger bonds ” that, according to the opposition, helped to keep president Nicolas Maduro in power.

The statement says Pence also praised Lopez for his courage in defending democracy even while under house arrest.

"All of Caracas empty, showing firmness in its objective to reach freedom", Guevara, the opposition leader, wrote Thursday on Twitter.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is paying homage to the late Hugo Chavez on what would have been his predecessor's 63rd birthday.

"On July 30, the constitutional assembly will happen", Maduro said Friday at a subsidized housing ceremony.

The U.S. also joined with a dozen other regional governments in urging Maduro to suspend Sunday's election of a national assembly for rewriting the charter.

The imminent election of a constituent assembly has been broadly condemned by countries around the world as a weakening of democratic governance in the OPEC nation, which is also struggling under a crippling economic crisis.

The United States and other global powers have urged Maduro to drop his plan and respect the electoral calendar.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was pushing forward Saturday with a controversial weekend vote, despite growing domestic political opposition, global condemnation and deadly street protests.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced Thursday that officials were prohibiting any protests through Tuesday. And the crisis is creating fears in neighbouring countries of a refugee crisis, with 150 Venezuelans a day seeking asylum in Brazil alone and an estimated 550,000 living undocumented in Colombia. If anything, the new entity nearly guarantees more tension and political duress.

The country has been in unrest for four months with anger over high inflation, a severe shortage of basic food items and a deadly shortage of medical supplies.

An AP tally of official reports shows that the death toll in almost 4 months of civil unrest in Venezuela has reached 100.

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