More than seven million Venezuelans participated in an unofficial referendum organized by the opposition Sunday and 98% voted to delegitimize the rule of President Nicolas Maduro, according to academics monitoring the vote.
Related: Woman Shot Dead in Venezuela Voting
Voters responded to three questions and they overwhelmingly rejected the proposed new super legislative body, urged the military to defend the existing constitution, and supported holding elections before Maduro’s term ends in early 2019.
Maduro dismissed Sunday’s poll as unconstitutional and continued to campaign in support of a July 30 vote to create an assembly that would have the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions.
The symbolic plebiscite was held amid an economic crisis that has left millions of Venezuelans struggling to meet basic needs, and almost daily anti-government protests for several months that have cost the lives of about 100 people.
Gunmen on motorcycles fired on a group of voters in Caracas casting ballots Sunday killing a woman in her 60s and wounding three other people.
The opposition blamed the attack outside a church in one of Caracas’ poorer districts on pro-government “paramilitaries.” An opposition statement said it felt “great pain” over the shooting.
Maduro has said changing the constitution is the only way to pull Venezuela out of its deep economic and social crisis.
“I’m calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk,” he said Sunday. “Let’s start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace.”
But the opposition says the assembly will be rigged in Maduro’s favor. It says rewriting the constitution is nothing but a Maduro ploy to turn Venezuela into a socialist dictatorship and destroy dissent.
One voter who rejects the new constitution summed up the feelings of millions of Venezuelans, saying “there’s no medicine, no food, no security…no separation of powers, no freedom of expression.”
The drop in global energy prices along with government corruption has destroyed Venezuela’s oil-rich economy. There are severe shortages of basic goods such as gasoline, flour, sugar, and cooking oil. Supermarket shelves are bare and many Venezuelans cross into neighboring Brazil and Colombia to buy food.
Maduro blames his country’s woes on the United States and warns against intervention by the Organization of American States, saying that would surely bring on civil war.
Since you’re here …… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Today Venezuela than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organizations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our site as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. Updating reports on Today Venezuela takes a lot of time, money and hard work. But we do it because we believe our reports matter.
If everyone who reads Today Venezuela, who likes it, helps to support it by clicking our ads, our future would be much more secure. Do you part, click on an ad today.