Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote

Venezuelans turn out for unofficial vote

Amid ongoing turmoil, an overwhelming majority of those who voted in an unofficial referendum organized by Venezuela's opposition has rejected the motion of leftist President Nicolas Maduro to change the constitution and supplant the opposition-leadning Parliament with a "Constituent Assembly". After much protest and accusations from the opposition of Maduro trying to stage a coup, the decision was reversed.

Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-controlled legislature in Venezuela, said the vote was a watershed moment "in this fight to win back democracy for Venezuela". "We have many people from throughout the Valley, and we're all coming together to show that we want freedom".

The lines outside the Watsco Center at the University of Miami stretched as far as the eye could see as Venezuelans turned out in full force all across South Florida to reject the government's controversial plan to rewrite the constitution.

The Opposition called backers to vote on three questions.

Maduro has slammed the opposition vote as meaningless and illegitimate.

"Don't go insane, calm down", he said on Sunday in a message to the opposition, vowing his Constituent Assembly would bring peace to the volatile nation of 30 million people.

Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions, but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. Do they support the formation of a government composed both of Maduro backers and opponents?

Sunday's almost 7.2 million participation compared with 7.7 million opposition votes in the 2015 legislative elections that it won by a landslide and 7.3 million votes for the opposition in a 2013 presidential poll narrowly won by Maduro. "We will honor that cry that Venezuela gave", he said.

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"Let's start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace".

Over 7 million out of 19.5 million eligible voters have participated in the opposition poll, nearly the number of 7.7 million voters who backed the opposition in the last presidential elections.

Opposition organizers pointed out Sunday's turnout follows just two weeks of organization, with voting at just 2,000 polling stations, compared to 14,000 at the 2015 vote.

The victim, a 61-year-old nurse, was shot dead in Caracas by gunmen on motorbikes while she queued to participate in the symbolic vote, and a journalist was kidnapped, robbed, and beaten before he managed to escape.

Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada tweeted he was banning former Mexican president Vicente Fox from the country for "conspiring to promote violence and foreign intervention".

Various former Latin American heads of state attended Sunday's vote as observers in support of the opposition.

The woman's death brought to 96 the number of people who have died in almost four months of protests and political agitation in Venezuela's streets.