French Airlines Grounds Venezuela Flights Ahead of Controversial Vote

5 Killed in Violence during Venezuelan Opposition's General Strike against Maduro Regime

The opposition say they will defy the ban ahead of President Maduro's controversial Constituent Assembly vote on Sunday. As such, OHCHR reiterated the call for calm and for peaceful protests and for all sides to use only peaceful means to make their views heard. Dozens of people were arrested, Reuters reported.

Arteaga has said he will continue to play with protesters until Maduro releases all political prisoners and stops the repression against protesters who are exhausted of the food and medicine shortages.

He called for a "punishment vote" for the opposition, which "has burned humans alive and destroyed shops and businesses".

Most of those killed in anti-government protests that began in early April have been young men killed by gunfire. "No more dictatorship. Maduro, resign" during a protest against the socialist government in Caracas on May 2. In one instance, about 120 people gathered at and near an intersection in the Altamira neighborhood.

At one protest site, paramedic Johann Paredes, 27, helped both injured protesters and national guard troops Friday. "Honestly, I'm terrified that (it) is going" forward.

Thousands of Venezuelans loaded with heavy bags have crossed the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest. "We will fight", opposition leader and National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara told reporters Thursday, after the ban was announced.

However, opposition leaders are urging citizens to boycott the vote, saying the election rules were rigged to guarantee Maduro a majority and arguing that a new constitution could replace democracy with a single-party authoritarian system. Aside from rewriting the constitution, the National Constituent Assembly could function as a sort of super-body that assumes the powers of the National Assembly, the only government branch not controlled by Maduro.

First Lady Cilia Flores, a candidate for the assembly, said it would create a commission to ensure those responsible for the political upheaval "pay and learn their lesson".

"The vote is yet another polarizing factor that will make it more hard to achieve some form of reconciliation", Main said. But once chosen, the 545 members elected by region and economic sector will convene within 72 hours and get to work, according to Telesur.

But in his country, where there are widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, protesters are showing their discontent with Maduro's leadership.

The U.S. Treasury Department is ready with tougher sanctions on Venezuela, including crude oil restrictions, but may hold back, an industry report read.

The referendum asked voters three yes-no questions.

The turnout represented about 37% of Venezuela's total electorate.

The United Statesthis week sanctioned a group of ruling Socialist Party officials, and the US Embassy ordered family members of staff to leave the country. Many Venezuelans live hand-to-mouth and say they must keep working.

The assembly has a "fake origin and therefore, the results will not be recognized", Santos said in Barranquilla.

The relationship between the neighbors has been strained for years.

The hardening political struggle has deepened fears that months of street violence could worsen.

The Constituent Assembly would have power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the existing opposition-led legislature, which the opposition says would cement dictatorship in Venezuela.

Four months of protests against Mr.

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish). The next presidential election is now set for next year, but the constituent assembly could change that and further anger the opposition. That pivot could cause American gas prices to pop.

Venezuela became dependent on selling its oil overseas, and income suffered when the price of oil per barrel dropped from $100 in 2014 to $26 in 2016.

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.

Maduro has long verbally clashed with opposition leaders.

The protests and strikes were part of an opposition strategy to force Maduro from power through early elections.

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