Venezuela: Protesters, troops clash ahead of Sunday's vote on constituent assembly

| Updated: Jul 30, 2017 09:44 IST

Caracas [Venezuela], July 30 (ANI):Venezuela's beleaguered government is set to go ahead with a vote on Sunday that will elect a 545-member constituent assembly with the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions.The assembly could give Maduro new powers and dissolve state institutions. Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have stepped up their protests against the controversial vote and critics at home and abroad have warned will seal the demise of the oil-rich nation's democracy. Maduro's regime has forbidden protests through Tuesday, saying violators will face prison terms of five to 10 years. It says it has dispatched more than 370,000 troops across the country to secure Sunday's vote. Violent clashes with the government have killed 113 since April, according to the Venezuelan Attorney General's Office, as the country faces economic and political crises with falling crude oil prices that funds most of the government's socialist agenda. The newly elected body would rewrite the 1999 constitution, the cornerstone of former President Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution," which extended presidential term limits and allowed for indefinite re-elections. Opposition leaders won a majority of seats in Venezuela's National Assembly in midterm elections in December 2015 because of the economic crisis the country has been facing and the results were a blow to the oil-rich country's socialist government that has held the congress for 16 years. The political upheaval started in late March when the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved Parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself, which is stacked with government loyalists. The opposition claimed Maduro was creating a dictatorship as impeachment attempts were blocked by the Court. International pressure against Venezuela's election has been increasing as the United States, Mexico and Colombia said they're freezing assets and imposing other restrictions on certain current and former Venezuelan government officials. The U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions against 13 Venezuelan government officials. The sanctions come ahead of the planned July 30, 2017, election orchestrated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of a National Constituent Assembly that will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and dissolve all government institutions. "As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime's ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom and the rule of law," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. (ANI)