Woman killed outside Church queuing to vote in Venezuela

Woman killed outside Church queuing to vote in Venezuela

Woman killed outside Church queuing to vote in Venezuela

Sunday, almost 7.2 million Venezuelans voted in a hastily arranged referendum created to voice their opposition to the socialist president's plans to rewrite the country's constitution.

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said a pro-government "paramilitary" gang opened fire in Caracas' poor neighbourhood of Catia, where thousands were participating in the event.

The chief prosecutor's office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

Video on social media showed huge crowds outside the church, then hundreds running in panic as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out. Opposition leaders said that was because they were able to set up only 2,000 polling places in a symbolic exercise the government labeled as illegitimate.

CARACAS-Venezuela's opposition announced a general strike and plans to name new Supreme Court judges, threatening to launch a parallel state if President Nicolás Maduro doesn't abandon his plans to rewrite the constitution. The Venezuelan government has responded with lethal force, killing more than 90 citizens in clashes with protesters.

Though polls show the opposition has majority support and his foes repeatedly call for a free and fair election as their top demand, Maduro insists they are USA pawns intent on sabotaging the economy and bringing him down through violence.

"If they're forcing us, it isn't democracy", Madriz said. "The situation in Venezuela will be part of the conversation with President Castro, seeing how we can come to a solution, that dialogue is re-established, that there are paths to a deal".

Voters form queues ahead of the opening of polling booths. Credit AVN
Voters form queues ahead of the opening of polling booths. Credit AVN

Voting on three questions, 98 per cent rejected the new assembly proposed by President Maduro and backed a call for elections before 2019.

"This is really important because I think it's the first step in recovering our country because it's really bad right now", Claudia Cabrera, a local Venezuelan resident, said. Opposition members fear Maduro's constitutional assembly will reschedule or do away with a future presidential election entirely.

Still, Maduro has vowed that Sunday's referendum will do nothing to stall a July 30 election for delegates for a constituent assembly, which will be responsible for rewriting the country's 18-year-old constitution.

Tensions in Venezuela continue to rise as President Nicolás Maduro, who became head of state after the death of Hugo Chavez, attempts to solidify the influence of his socialist party. They also want any and all political prisoners to be released. However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

Venezuela has been plagued by daily outbursts of anger over food shortages and an economic crisis characterised by rampant inflation.

The oil-rich nation was once one of Latin America's most prosperous, but it has been plunged into political and economic turmoil as petroleum prices plummet, nationalized farms and factories halt production and corruption runs rampant.

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