Gunmen attack voters in Venezuela's symbolic - but meaningless - referendum

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A vast majority of Venezuelan voters, 98.4 percent, rejected the President's proposal to form a National Constituent Assembly to amend the country's Constitution in an opposition-backed referendum.

More than seven million voters took part in the unofficial referendum in Venezuela on Sunday, out of a total of 19.5 million eligible voters.

In the face of a debilitating economic crisis (the value of oil, #Venezuela's main export, has fallen by almost 70% and inflation is up 200%) and increasing political upheaval, Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, scheduled a constitutional referendum to be held on July 30th.

However, it fell short of the opposition's 7.7 million-vote showing in 2015 legislative elections and the 7.5 million votes that brought Maduro to power in 2013. One pointed to the rejection of the Constituent Assembly convened by Maduro; Another, asked if the Bolivarian National Armed Forces were "required to obey and defend the Constitution"; And the last one, inquired whether they supported a renewal of public powers and the formation of a Government of national unity.

David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said Sunday's results would likely rally the global community even more strongly against the July 30 vote Maduro has called to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela's 1999 constitution.

Results showed 98.5 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the armed forces protecting the constitution following the decisions of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which was declared in contempt by the Supreme Court previous year, stripping it of its powers. "We have given an indisputable mandate for a new Venezuela starting tomorrow".

"The results seem to confirm that the opposition would easily defeat the government in any election".

It fears the new body could herald dictatorship.

Sunday's unofficial poll was held in improvised polling across Venezuela and in more than 100 countries around the world. "As if they are autonomous and decide on their own", he said.

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The proposed changes have fueled tensions in the oil-rich country, which has been hard hit by shortages and violent government crackdowns on protests in recent months.

The opposition plans to burn ballot papers from the informal poll so those who voted against the government can not be identified and victimized. "Today we're following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro".

Among many things, they said it was a "provocation" from the government to hold the "practice voting", warning that it could lead to "regrettable conflicts", which in the end is what happened.

The dry run for the Venezuela National Constituent Assembly has received an unexpectedly high turnout, reported Telesur, a state-sponsored pro-government news outlet.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council, CNE, said on Sunday that the voting exercise was particularly important to ensure that the voters can exercise their right to vote in safe conditions. She says the lack of safety was acute and the main reason she escaped from her homeland, which was in the capital of Caracas.

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

Inviting people to participate in the popular consultation, he said that it was about the people expressing its will with "sovereignty", and that the Church, together with "every thinking institution" in the country, wants change.

The opposition blamed a "paramilitary" gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate.

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