Venezuelans defy protest ban before assembly vote

Reuters

"Venezuela has been systematically attacked by the US empire in its attempt to show a state of ungovernability and crisis in the country", Moncada said.

The United Nations has expressed concern about the risk of further violence in Venezuela.

"We're going to keep fighting, we're not leaving the streets", said opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan. "For us, it's a recognition of morality, loyalty to the nation, and civic honesty".

Opposition leaders urged Venezuelans to demonstrate anyway in an event they billed as the "taking of Caracas". Maduro have already claimed 113 lives, according to prosecutors - eight of them during a two-day general strike that ended on Thursday. That increased the official count of dead in almost four months of demonstrations to at least 98.

The Constituent Assembly would have power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the existing opposition-led legislature, which the opposition maintains would cement dictatorship in Venezuela. The new constituent assembly، comprising 545 members، will rival the National Assembly، now controlled by the opposition.

One protester, an engineer who declined to give his name, told CNN Wednesday "in a way, it would help us", arguing that USA sanctions would force Maduro to change his ways or step down.

His decision led to almost daily demonstrations by opposition supporters across the country that have led to more than 110 deaths since April.

The opposition and U.S. moves are to force Maduro to give up his plan to have a 545-member "Constituent Assembly" elected on Sunday.

"We are on the brink of their trying to annihilate the republic that you swore to defend", Lopez said in a 15-minute video message.

Caraqueños, as residents of capital city Caracas are known, woke to the sight of debris-strewn streets where demonstrators clashed with security forces during the week. White House officials are waiting for the result of the July 30 vote for representatives to the National Constituent Assembly, which will write the country's new constitution. "The only solution is a change of government".

The ban comes as the country careens toward a national referendum Sunday, called by Maduro to select the members of a constituent assembly tasked with replacing the 18-year-old constitution.

REEVES: His interior minister, Nestor Reverol, yesterday banned all demonstrations for five days.

The former bus driver and union leader reiterated that the assembly was the only way to bring peace to Venezuela, blasted threats of further sanctions from "Emperor Donald Trump", and hit back at accusations that he is morphing into a tyrant.

An electoral expert, Eugenio Martinez, noted that most of Venezuela's 20 million voters would be able to vote twice, raising questions about the validity of final turnout and balloting figures, especially with no foreign election observers present. The U.S. has accused El Aissami of playing a major role in global drug trafficking, a charge he denies. While Ms. Polga said she was grateful to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for her statement welcoming the USA sanctions this week, she said the government must "take action".

In recent years Colombia has received hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants, many of whom have Colombian roots. Avianca was offering full refunds to the estimated 13,000 passengers who had booked a flight on the now-suspended service.

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