Venezuela's Opposition To Vote On Symbolic Referendum Against Consitution Rewrite

Venezuela's Opposition To Vote On Symbolic Referendum Against Consitution Rewrite

Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, which is currently in contempt of the law, called for the July 16 ballot to consult Venezuelans on three questions: whether they want a constituent assembly or not; whether they want the armed forces to support the existing constitution and the decisions of the national assembly; and whether they want immediate general elections. The opposition says the vote is structured to pack the constitutional assembly with supporters and eliminate checks on his power.

A protester paints "No to the Constituent", referring to the assembly Maduro wants to rewrite the constitution.

Local congressional representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were on hand at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables to express their support for the Venezuelan community.

"And also to the military forces, we want to remind them, their duty is to defend, not the president, not the Supreme Court - the constitution".

However, the plebiscite does not have the support of the electoral power nor the government, which considers it illegal.

"If we are millions this Sunday, we will start a scale of greater pressure to respect the people's will and stop this constituent fraud", said opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

For Franchesca Marquez, altering the constitution is unthinkable.

His opponents have argued that setting up a new constituent assembly and rewriting the constitution would almost certainly delay this year's regional elections and next year's presidential election.

Maduro called for the Constituent Assembly, with powers to reform the constitution and supersede other institutions, in what he says is an attempt to bring peace after three months of fatal street protests.

Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars.

"Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people", said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker waiting outside a school in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years.

A coalition of opposition parties; the National Assembly announced the move on July 3.

Venezuela's unrest has caused fatalities among both demonstrators and security forces, mostly from gunshots, as well as hundreds of arrests and thousands of injuries since April.

Venezuelans have more than 100 days protesting against the government. The opposition believes that it will be one further step towards a one-party state.

Voters wearing white or the colours of the Venezuelan flag lined up in front of the 14,000 makeshift polling tables set up under tents across the country by the opposition.

The opposition promised results on the poll by Sunday evening.

Maduro made no mention of the incident in comments on state television shortly after the official close of opposition polls at 4 p.m., but he called for an end to violence that he blamed on the opposition.

Queues started to form early and there was a festive atmosphere in most places. "Now they've invented this July 16 thing to put the burden on their own people and evade their responsibility", Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said Saturday.

Maduro, 54, narrowly won election in 2013 but has seen his ratings plunge, to just over 20 percent, during a brutal economic crisis.