Venezuelans brace for unrest, stockpile food ahead of Sunday vote

In Venezuela, protesters took over streets in Caracas yesterday responding to an Opposition call for nationwide protests. That never happened. But the opposition did organize an unofficial informal referendum July 16, in which more than 7 million people turned out - the vast majority to reject the very idea of the ANC.

Maduro on Thursday warned that anyone taking part in protests against his "Constituent Assembly" risked up to 10 years in prison.

The US government ordered family members of employees at its embassy in Venezuela to leave on July 27, as seven people were killed during the strike, according to Reuters.

Colombia says it will grant temporary legal status to more than 150,000 Venezuelans who have overstayed visas due to the deteriorating political and economic crisis in their home country.

REEVES: Maduro's under growing global pressure to call off Sunday's vote.

But hundreds of Maduro's supporters filled some streets Thursday in Caracas for a rally that marked the last day for candidates to campaign.

Voters Sunday will elect a 545-seat assembly that could do whatever it wants in rewriting the constitution - including abolishing the current National Assembly and even removing Maduro, said Luis Vicente Leon, a Venezuelan political analyst and college professor.

But on Friday, Rubio said further sanctioning would be on its way if Maduro follows through on the "sham" elections.

"Tomorrow, every Venezuelan should prepare for the intense agenda coming [the government's] way", Guevara said Thursday.

US sanctions against Venezuelan officials include a key figure in some of the oil-for-cash deals with China that are central for the survival of Petroleos de Venezuela SA. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro.

"Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are?" On Friday, the MUD announced that they would hold the Taking of Caracas, a giant protest in the capital with analogs throughout the country meant to show the number of people against Maduro.

"We're going to keep fighting, we're not leaving the streets", said opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan. It called late Friday for massive marches on the day of the assembly vote.

Opposition says that would cement Maduro's dictatorship in Venezuela.

Venezuela was less than four days from a vote that would start the process of rewriting its constitution by electing members of a special assembly to reshape the charter.

The United Nations human rights office said it was "deeply concerned" about the "very tense and very hard situation" in Venezuela.

On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on 13 top officials of Venezuela's government for "undermining democracy", a move slammed by Maduro as "insolent" and "imperialist", just as the Venezuelan opposition initiated its general strike, demanding Maduro halt the July 30 election for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution.

In announcing the U.S. sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said America was "standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy".

Despite this being quickly reversed, the decision ignited a protest movement against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

  • Delores Daniels