Phone calls, dismissal threats: Venezuela pressures state workers to vote

On Friday, his forces faced small groups of protesters defying a ban he had imposed on demonstrations against the election he has called Sunday to choose a new body to rewrite the constitution.

The government banned protests from Friday to Tuesday, raising the likelihood of more violence in volatile Venezuela.

Three Florida congressmen banded together Friday to blast the Maduro regime, promising more sanctions against the South American country if the government proceeds with a plan to create a new constitution and promote a dictatorship.

"The dire economic crisis that Venezuela is facing - with rampant shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods - is a major factor contributing to the country's current political instability", Alexander Main, a senior associate for global policy at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, told ABC News via email.

The EU, UN and heavyweight nations in the Organization of American States have all also urged Maduro to drop his controversial plan.

"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.

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. This week, the US announced sanctions against senior figures in Venezuela's government and security services and warned there'll be more if the vote is held. While Ms. Polga said she was grateful to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for her statement welcoming the US sanctions this week, she said the government must "take action".

Maduro branded the USA punishment "illegal, insolent and unprecedented".

The Valero Energy Corp and Marathon Petroleum Corp refineries said on Thursday that they plan to work with lighter crude oil this quarter, Reuters reported, and to continue to move away from heavy and bitter crude oil supplied by Venezuela and other OPEC producers.

Some 70 per cent of Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis. Maduro attempted to strip the opposition-dominated Congress of its powers.

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"We have to do everything possible to halt the constitutional assembly", said Maria Medina, an office administrator who was waiting in line at a state-run bank that opened.

For his part, Maduro called Trump an "emperor". The Maduro government characterizes the country's crisis as the result of an economic war led by the global right-wing and as a fiction created by opposition-influenced media.

Political upheaval intensified in late March when the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved Parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself.

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

Prosecutors said a 16-year-old boy also was killed in Wednesday's disturbances in Caracas.

"The goal is not only to write the constitution, the objective is to get rid of the National Assembly, which we won with two-thirds of the votes", Aria told RT.

A coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties proposed but then appeared to back away from its call to form an alternative "government of national unity".

The flagship airline in neighboring Colombia said it was suspending all flights to Venezuela, citing security concerns. In contrast, the United States' money supply is up 5.5 percent in the same period.

Far from derail Maduro, the Venezuelan leader appeared emboldened by the sanctions, praising those accused by the US government of undermining the nation's democracy and abusing human rights.

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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