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Low voter turnout in controversial Venezuelan vote

LOW VOTER TURNOUT IN CONTROVERSIAL VENEZUELAN VOTE

Three people were killed Sunday in clashes between protesters and police in Venezuela as voting proceeded on a controversial new 545-member Constitutional Assembly, that country's chief prosecutor's office said.

Two officers were also wounded in an explosion in Caracas, according to authorities.

The president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Julio Borges, said at least 12 people lost their lives during the weekend in protests against the vote.

President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday morning the new assembly would usher in "a new era of combat" and he emphasized that international critics did not succeed in derailing the vote.

"Emperor Donald Trump wanted to prohibit the people from exercising the right to vote," he told a national television audience. "I said: rain, thunder or lightning, there will be elections."

Opposition leaders called for a boycott of the election, fearing the new body would have powers to rewrite the Constitution and dissolve state institutions that would mark the end of democracy in Venezuela.

The call for voters to stay home appears to have at least some success as low-voter turnout was record in the capital, Caracas, after polling stations opened at 6 a.m. (1000GMT).

The government wanted to avoid high abstention after 7.6 million voters two weeks ago casts ballots against the new assembly project in a symbolic referendum.

"The competition was between the free and rebellious Venezuelan people and an authoritarian government, totally outside the Constitution," Borges said at a news conference. "Today, the Venezuelan people won."

Opinion polls show more than two-thirds of Venezuelans rejected the idea of a Constituent Assembly.

Neighboring Colombia, Panama and Peru, announced they would ignore the results and threatened to consider Venezuela no longer a democracy.

Maduro went forward with the vote despite four months of protests by the opposition that left at least 116 dead, and pressure from the U.S., European Union and several Latin America countries.

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