Published: Sun, July 30, 2017
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

Police officer killed during anti-Maduro protests in Venezuela

Police officer killed during anti-Maduro protests in Venezuela

"Arrest millions of people who protest?" opposition leader Henrique Capriles told reporters Friday. Violators could receive prison sentences of five to 10 years, according to the government.

It comes as the number of people killed in the anti-government clashes reached over 100.

Thousands of Venezuelans loaded with heavy bags have crossed the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

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

Government officials and candidates for the Constituent Assembly wrapped up campaigning on Thursday with a rally in Caracas with Maduro. Opposition leaders say today's protest will go ahead, even though it's banned and despite the likelihood of more bloodshed.

While it remains hard to estimate how many of Venezuela's 2.8 million state workers will vote, most interviewees said a significant majority probably will, either out of allegiance or out of fear.

Cilia Flores, Maduro's wife and a candidate for the new assembly, has said the new pro-Maduro members will install a separate justice commission "to determine those responsible for these bad damages", including politicians who she says has promoted violence.

The government has banned protests from Friday to Tuesday, but opposition figure Henrique Capriles called on his followers to hold protests along the country's main roads on Sunday. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro. "If they don't, the United States will not stand still", he said.

The Constituent Assembly will comprise 545 elected representatives, 364 of whom will come from municipal circumscriptions (one from each, except state capitals which will get two, and Caracas, which will get seven).

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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.

On Sunday, Venezuelans are scheduled to cast their vote for more than 500 members of the National Constituent Assembly, which will be in charge of drafting a new constitution and reordering the state without anyone being able to oppose their decisions. As of late Friday, few appeared to have heeded the calls.

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

Venezuelans have been protesting against Maduro to demand he respect the opposition-led congress and resolve chronic food and medicine shortages that have driven malnutrition and health problems.

"We're a united people, a sovereign country. and we walk towards victory with our President Nicolás Maduro", tweeted Rodolfo Marco Torres, a government minister.

Maduro has not said whether the new constitution would be put to Venezuelans for their approval in a referendum as Chavez's was in 1999.

"Maduro's opponents say the assembly's rigged to be pro-government and will rewrite the constitution to make Venezuela an all-out dictatorship", NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

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.

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