Woman killed outside Church queuing to vote in Venezuela

Frederick Owens
July 17, 2017

President Maduro's plans to change the constitution is what lead Venezuelans across the globe to come together Sunday to vote on this symbolic referendum that has no legal impact and that Maduro calls illegitimate.

The symbolic plebiscite was aimed at denting Maduro's legitimacy further amid a crippling economic crisis that has left millions struggling to eat and months of anti-government unrest that has killed almost 100 people.

"Today, July 16, dignity won and tyranny lost", said opposition leader Maria Corina Machado. Greeting the Venezuelan Catholic community in Italy, he renewed his prayer for this "beloved country".

The opposition says that vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party.

The Protesters' motivation was boosted at the beginning of May when Maduro announced he would call up a constituent assembly to rewrite the country's constitution.

According to Borges, once all ballots are counted, there will be some 7.5 million votes in the latest poll, which he said would be sufficient to overturn Maduro's mandate if there was a referendum.

A dry run of that election was also held Sunday, to detract from the opposition vote which the government branded "illegal".

Voters strongly opposed government plans for a new constituent assembly with the power to scrap the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution.

"We don't want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us".

Venezuela "sent a clear message to the national executive and the world", announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 overseas.

Venezuelan expat Patty Fucci after voting Sunday in Coral Gables
Venezuelan expat Patty Fucci after voting Sunday in Coral Gables. Credit Tim Padgett

More than seven million voters took part in the unofficial referendum in Venezuela on Sunday, out of a total of 19.5 million eligible voters.

It fears the new body could herald dictatorship.

"They have convened an internal consultation with the opposition parties, with their own mechanisms, without electoral rulebooks, without prior verification, without further verification".

Opposition organizers pointed out Sunday's turnout follows just two weeks of organization, with voting at just 2,000 polling stations, compared to 14,000 at the 2015 vote.

The opposition plans to burn ballot papers from the informal poll so those who voted against the government can not be identified and victimized.

A view of confrontations between pro and anti-government demonstrators as members of the police patrol the area during an unofficial referendum organized by the opposition in Caracas, Venezuela, 16 July 2017.

Among many things, they said it was a "provocation" from the government to hold the "practice voting", warning that it could lead to "regrettable conflicts", which in the end is what happened.

"It clearly states that Maduro is as deeply unpopular as he has always been thought to be, and it shows, as the polls have suggested, that Venezuelans are overwhelmingly against the idea of establishing a constitutional assembly", Philip reports. The chief prosecutor's office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

Given the option of answering yes or no to three questions, the overwhelming majority of participants - more than 98 percent - rejected the proposal for a Constituent Assembly, called for elections before the end of Maduro's current term in 2019, and said the armed forces should defend the present constitution.

The opposition blamed a "paramilitary" gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate.

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