Published: Tue, July 18, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Venezuelan opposition calls for nationwide strike

Venezuelan opposition calls for nationwide strike

The symbolic plebiscite was aimed at denting Maduro's legitimacy further amid a crippling economic crisis that has left millions struggling to eat and months of anti-government unrest that has killed almost 100 people.

The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Table (MUD), held a news conference to discuss Sunday's unofficial referendum in which almost 7.2 million Venezuelans rejected President Nicolas Maduro's government.

"Today, Venezuela said yes to a dignified country, a democratic country, a country where people do not have to go because they have no future".

The opposition released only turnout numbers Sunday night, not tallies of responses, although virtually all who voted were believed to have answered "yes" to the central rejection of the constitutional rewrite.

Venezuelans living in Costa Rica take part in an unofficial referendum launched by the Venezuelan opposition in San Jose, Costa Rica, 16 July 2017.

Recently, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, who has worked closely with the USA state department and Venezuela, asked Cuba's Raul Castro, a close ally of Maduro, to intervene in the conflict.

Sunday's referendum, which was not recognized as official by Maduro's government, asked voters three questions at more than 2,000 sites in Venezuela and in 80 different countries: whether they support Maduro's plan for a constituent assembly; whether the military should support the current constitution and decisions of the national assembly; and if there should be early elections before Maduro's term expires in 2018. The opposition has called for a boycott of that vote.

The opposition said 7,186,170 Venezuelans participated in a symbolic referendum rejecting President Nicolas Maduro's plans for the July 30 election of an assembly that would remake the political system.

For the past several months, Venezuelans have taken to the streets in opposition of President Maduro.

"We do not want to be Cuba, we do not want to be a country without freedom", said Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-controlled parliament.

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They then cited several biblical passages on love of God and neighbor before urging action in showing solidarity with those who have fled Marawi and those who have been taken hostage.

In the 2013 legislative elections, the opposition also won 7.3 million votes, though Maduro eked out a win with 7.5 million. "But these seven million people spoke, and it was plenty".

"There's kids dying because they are starving, there's no food, there's no medicine", Cabrera said.

Late Sunday, the prosecutor-general issued a statement stating that a shooting at the town of Catia, west of Caracas, had killed Scott and three others outside a voting centre.

He said: "I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk. The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people".

"I have never seen a situation where opening times for a practice run of an election have to be extended", said Hector Rodriguez, head of the Zamora constituent campaign, at a press conference.

Separately, journalist Luis Olavarrieta was kidnapped, robbed and beaten by what he said was a a group of government supporters, but managed to escape.

The National Assembly - also controlled by the opposition - says it will name new members of the country's supreme court, a move certain to be blocked by Maduro's administration.

One unexpected challenger who has emerged is Venezuela's chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz.

Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition claimed the high turnout - about a third of the 19 million eligible voters - provided a mandate for them to challenge Maduro.

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