Venezuela imposes ban on demonstrations as election nears


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for a vote on Sunday that Trump and many other critics say will transform the South American government into dictatorship.

The opposition vowed to protest through the weekend, raising the spectre of further violence given that the government has banned protests from Friday to Tuesday. The delegates - majority expected to be ruling-party loyalists - would have the power to rewrite the 1999 constitution, dissolve other branches of government, and call and cancel future elections.

At least seven of those deaths happened Wednesday and Thursday during a two-day opposition-led general strike. But the hundreds of thousands who have sometimes taken to the streets during almost four months of anti-government protests were largely absent.

Despite the US sanctions and calls from countries including Canada to cancel Sunday's vote, the Maduro regime has shown no signs of backing down.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the vote is a chance to bring unity and peace to the country. "The constituent assembly lacks legitimacy and because of that we can not accept the result،" he said. Protesters say the election of a constitutional assembly will allow Maduro to eliminate democratic checks and balances and install an authoritarian single-party system.

The U.S. also said it had determined that Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, hit with U.S. sanctions in February, had "hundreds of millions of dollars" in assets that have been frozen due to the sanctions. His finance minister also told a local radio station the neighboring nation would sanction the same 13 former and current Venezuelan officials cited by the US on Wednesday.

But Maduro called for the constitutional revisions, and with pro-Maduro candidates running for numerous seats, including former ministers in his government, the body is likely to favor him. Protesters are planning to expand their demonstrations, and officials are anxious those protests could turn violent.

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Dang MLA Mangal Gavit and Ishwarbhai Patel, another Congress legislator present at the press meet, made similar allegations. According to party leaders, this does not mean that Raolji will not resign but is looking to renegotiate and then resign.

Romero said the 23-year-old musician was playing his violin on the streets of Caracas and was not breaking any laws when he was detained Thursday.

Prior to the general ban on public assembly, a Miami Herald report unveiled that Maduro had attempted to convince the opposition to "cool down" protests in exchange for postponing the vote on Sunday through Spanish socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has previously acted as a mediator for the regime. As of late Friday, few appeared to have heeded the calls.

The United Nations has voiced concern about the risk of further violence in Venezuela as a vote to begin rewriting the constitution looms.

Venezuela's President Maduro calls the protesters "terrorists" and insists the demonstrations are a cover for a coup plot orchestrated by the US. The decision was quickly reversed but it sparked a protest movement demanding a new presidential election.

"What's at stake is nothing less than the loss of freedom of Venezuela and the initiation of the Cuban model in a false, illegal, constitutional way", Diego Arria, a former governor of Caracas and an opposition leader living in the US, told ABC News.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12% this year, after a contraction of 18% last year, according to the latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund.

The visa measure, effective immediately, will apply to Venezuelans with expired temporary visas as well as those with tourist visas who wish to remain, the foreign ministry and migration authority said in a joint statement.