Venezuelan protesters take to streets to defy Maduro


Protesters on Friday blocked streets in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities in more marches against a controversial vote Sunday that could forma an assembly to rewrite the Constitution.

Opposition parties occupied the streets despite a protest ban by the government that extends through Tuesday. Violators could receive prison sentences of five to 10 years, according to the government.

Venezuelans rushed to stores and banks early Friday after most businesses were closed during a two-day national strike called by the opposition that began Wednesday.

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 crisis has forced thousands of citizens to flee during in recent months.

Several countries and global organizations, including the U.S. and EU, have condemned the vote for Sunday.

The United Nations asked the government of President Nicolas Maduro to allow citizens to protest peacefully.

"We urge the authorities to manage any protests against the Constituent Assembly in line with international human rights norms and standards," Elisabeth Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement Friday.

But Maduro repeated "there was no going back" during a public ceremony where he said the process will be "a great space for dialogue" that will serve to build a "new productive economy".

The U.S. placed economic sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan officials earlier this week in response to the vote going forward.

A senior U.S. official said anyone who joins the new assembly should expect to be targeted with U.S. sanctions.

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