Venezuelans cast ballots in opposition vote


CARACAS: Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday in a vote organized by the opposition aimed at gauging public support for Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, against a backdrop of worsening political violence. With authorities refusing to greenlight a vote presented as an act of civil disobedience and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro boycotting it, voters seemed set to reject the president’s controversial scheme. The symbolic “plebiscite” comes two weeks ahead of a Maduro-backed vote to elect a citizens’ body that would revise the constitution. The opposition has told its supporters to stay away. The cross-purpose initiatives have given rise to international worries — voiced by the Catholic Church and the head of the UN, Antonio Guterres — that the chances of bringing both sides together for dialogue has become more remote. That, in turn, is stoking fears of more protests and running street battles with police, which have been persistent for the past three and a half months. Nearly 100 people have died in the unrest since the beginning of April. While Maduro is deeply unpopular — with 80 percent of Venezuelans criticizing his rule, according to the Datanalisis survey firm — he enjoys backing from some, mostly poor, parts of the population and, most importantly, from the military.


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