Majority reject Maduro's plan to amendments to Venezuelan constitution

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In Venezuela, the opposition et up a non-binding straw poll to let people share opinions about the Maduro administration's plan to elect a National Constituent Assembly that will overhaul the 1999 constitution. The polling stations were also visited by several heads of other Latin American states who stood in a show of solidarity with the opposition.

Just two weeks before an election to decide the delegates who will rewrite Venezuela's national constitution, opposition activists held a symbolic vote of their own on Sunday.

Recently, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, who has worked closely with the U.S. state department and Venezuela, asked Cuba's Raul Castro, a close ally of Maduro, to intervene in the conflict.

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

"I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk", the president said.

Colombia's former President Andres Pastrana, left, embraces Lilian Tintori, left after a news conference of worldwide observers of a symbolic referendum in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 16, 2017.

More than 98% of voters chose to reject the proposed constitutional assembly; request the military defend the existing constitution; and support fresh elections before Maduro's term ends in 2019. Opposition members fear Maduro's constitutional assembly will reschedule or do away with a future presidential election entirely.

The opposition MUD coalition, the influential Catholic church and Organization of American States have warned that rewriting the constitution would consolidate Venezuela's slide towards full dictatorship under Maduro.

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Venezuelans living in Costa Rica take part in an unofficial referendum launched by the Venezuelan opposition in San Jose, Costa Rica, 16 July 2017.

"Overall the package is pretty radical, especially the idea of a parallel government", said David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela.

In smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for the July 30 vote.

But she said it's falling apart in the hands of the government. The country's chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party. The people expressed themselves and told the Executive what they want: they want peace.

"We don't want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us".

The so-called plebiscite was organized outside the formal electoral system, so its results were rejected in advance by the government, which faces a wave of protests that continues after over 100 days and has left nearly a hundred dead.

In an attempt to further undermine the opposition, Maduro's government held its polls, labeling them simulations for the July 30 referendum.

Opponents of Venezuela's government blame it for turning one of the region's most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages.

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