Venezuela bans protests against new Assembly vote

The move comes four days before the country's vote in an effort to rewrite Venezuela's constitution.

Protesters across Venezuela took to the streets on April 1 to demand the resignation of President Maduro, the successor of late leader Hugo Chavez and his leftist ideology, Chavism (Chavismo), after the country's courts tried to strengthen the regime even further. He said Chavistas and members of the ruling PSUV party will ensure all citizens can exercise their right to vote without any threats. All of this happening, as violent clashes break out at the start of a 48-hour nationwide strike. The right-wing MUD coalition has maintained its belligerent position, calling for a week of actions in hopes of disrupting the elections, which have by and large failed to gain any significant support.

The agency's sanctions come less than a week before Maduro's planned election on Sunday to field the group that will form the National Constituent Assembly that "will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions".

Among those targeted are the head of Venezuela's National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, and former vice president Elias Jaua, who is leading the presidential commissions organizing Sunday's vote. "The election is set up in a way that all but ensures the assembly will be packed with Maduro supporters".

In addition to the strike, the opposition has vowed to continue to stage protests, including a massive march scheduled to take place in Caracas on Friday.

President Nicolas Maduro hit out at the United States on Wednesday for sanctions imposed on senior government and army officials in the country, instead praising those individuals for riling up Washington in defence of Venezuela.

Far from derail Maduro, the Venezuelan leader appeared emboldened by the sanctions, praising those accused by the USA government of undermining the nation's democracy and abusing human rights.


As he was hitting back the U.S. over the newly imposed sanctions, a 30-year-old man was killed but gunfire in a demonstration in the west of the country, followed by the death of a 16-year-old boy protesting against the regime. And under no circumstance should the United States intervene directly against Maduro's government.

The EU, UN and heavyweight nations in the Organization of American States have all also urged Maduro to drop his controversial plan.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested more penalties could be coming unless Maduro's government changes course.

Thousands of Venezuelans have crossed the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12 per cent this year, after a contraction of 18 per cent last year, the International Monetary Fund said. The meeting at the house of Leopoldo Lopez, a prominent opposition leader recently granted house arrest after three years in jail, sparked rumors of a possible behind the scenes negotiation of Venezuela's crisis.

But some 70 per cent of Venezuelans are opposed to the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.

Maduro critics also held an unofficial vote on July 16 to demonstrate public opposition.


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