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Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote

18 July 2017

The central question before voters concerned Maduro's intention to hold an election on July 30 to choose 545 members of a citizens' body called the "Constituent Assembly" that would redo the constitution.

Colombia has dealt with rising tensions and a growing number of people crossing the border from Venezuela as the crisis in the oil-rich country has deepened.

Venezuela saw its feuding political factions - the government and the opposition - both prepare their own polls on Sunday to challenge the legimacy of each other's survey of public opinions on the creation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

The opposition also said the country's National Assembly, which it controls, would name new members to the government-dominated Supreme Court, setting up a showdown with President Nicolas Maduro, whose party controls almost all other state institutions.

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

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"I'm calling on the Opposition to return to peace, to respect for the Constitution, to sit and talk", he said on television.

Venezuelans across the world and here in the Valley gathered to vote in an unofficial election.

The latest fatality came on Sunday when gunmen shot a 61-year-old woman in a crowd of opposition voters in the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Catia.

For the past several months, Venezuelans have taken to the streets in opposition of President Maduro.

Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions, but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships.

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When asked if the European Union will explore sanctions against Venezuelan leaders, Mogherini echoed the Spanish foreign affairs minister that defended "specific" and "selective" sanctions against "individual" leaders in Venezuela if the elections to the Constituent Assembly are held.

Fox said he left Venezuela as planned Monday and hadn't been personally notified of any action by the Venezuelan government.

The MUD sees establishment of the ANC, which will rewrite the Constitution, as a power grab by President Nicolas Maduro. The court nullified eight of the assembly's laws between January and October 2016, after making just one such ruling in the previous 200 years, legal experts say.

State media largely ignored Sunday's event, concentrating instead on a simultaneous, government-organised practice run for the July 30 vote. They also voted for the armed forces to defend the current constitution.

Opponents of Venezuela's government blame it for turning one of the region's most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages.

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The so-called plebiscite was organized outside the formal electoral system, so its results were rejected in advance by the government, which faces a wave of protests that continues after over 100 days and has left nearly a hundred dead. However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote