Venezuela to Introduce Ban on Street Protests

Venezuela to Introduce Ban on Street Protests

Opposition parties have said the vote on the Constituent Assembly is a "fraud" to establish a "dictatorship" and planned massive marches in Caracas for Friday.

Since Wednesday, thousands of people have turned out to hear the speeches before the election called by President Nicolas Maduro to arrive at a peaceful solution through dialogue to the current political situation in the country. He said Chavistas and members of the ruling PSUV party will ensure all citizens can exercise their right to vote without any threats.

The two killings pushed to the century mark the human toll of a political crisis that has brought the oil-rich South American country nearly four months of near-daily protests, thousands of injuries and arrests and a two-day general strike that shuttered businesses nationwide this week. But Maduro insists it is the only way to empower the people and bring peace after four months of anti-government unrest that have killed more than 100 people.

Many Venezuelans were taking part in a 48-hour general strike which started on Wednesday, in protest at Sunday's vote to elect members of an assembly which will be tasked with rewriting the constitution.

Polling firm Datanalisis says some 70 percent of Venezuelans are opposed to the Constituent Assembly.

Like the Trump administration, Venezuela's majority-backed opposition is demanding that Maduro scrap Sunday's election, which would create a congress with powers to rewrite the country's constitution and override all other institutions.

US officials say the Venezuelan government could face additional sanctions that could hit the country's oil industry.

Protests during the stoppage have left three people dead - two men, aged 30 and 23, in the western province of Merida, and a 14-year-old boy in an eastern Caracas slum, according to prosecutors.

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

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has warned of the possibility of civil war: "We are very afraid that the horror will develop into a bloodbath", he said in a report earlier this month.

Maduro accused the United States of fomenting the unrest against him and his government, with the help of the conservative opposition.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund predicts. In the past, Maduro's administration has denied charges from Washington, calling them a pretext to try to topple socialism in Latin America and win control of Venezuela's oil sector.

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

In an effort to get Mr Maduro to agree to negotiations, the bloc is threatening measures against Venezuela if it decides its government - whose membership of the organisation was suspended previous year - is in violation of the Ushuaia Protocol, which commits all Mercosur members to democratic norms.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez appealed to the military, which is fiercely loyal to the president, to withdraw its support from Maduro's plan, which he called a "constitutional fraud" aimed at eliminating democratic rule.

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