Florida's Venezuelans Came Out In Full Force For Unofficial Vote


The woman's death brought to 96 the number of people who have died in almost 100 days of protests, which have left more than a thousand injured.

On Sunday, opposition supporters voted overwhelmingly - by 98 percent - to reject the proposed new assembly, urge the military to defend the existing constitution, and support elections before Maduro's term ends.

Over the past couple of years the escalating crises in what once was the richest South American country has led to steep deterioration of public health with infectious diseases such as malaria creeping back.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos planned to discuss the crisis during a visit with President Raul Castro of Cuba, Venezuela's closest regional ally, Colombia's foreign minister said from Havana.

The referendum asked voters three yes-no questions.

Of course, President Maduro says the vote doesn't matter and that he will continue to hold elections later this month to choose people to rewrite the constitution.

Sunday's vote was a strong but not overwhelming showing that fell short of the 7.7 million votes garnered by the opposition in 2015 legislative elections and the 7.5 million votes that brought Maduro to power in 2013.

"We're prepared to deepen the political conflict to achieve the reestablishment of constitutional order", the vice president of congress, Freddy Guevara, said at a news conference on Monday flanked by other foes of Mr.

"With 95 percent of the votes counted we have 7,187,170 voters who participated", she said, adding that 6.4 million of the votes were in the country while 693,789 Venezuelans cast their ballots overseas.

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The total vote would be impossible to check, he said, as opposition organisers were going to burn ballots.

David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said Sunday's results would likely rally the worldwide 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.

Five former Latin American presidents - from Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and two from Costa Rica - were also in Venezuela at the invitation of the opposition to observe the vote. "But these seven million people spoke, and it was plenty".

Opposition strategy may include lengthy road blockades and sit-ins, a national strike, or possibly a march on the Miraflores presidential palace, similar to events before a short-lived coup against Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez in 2002. "As if they are autonomous and decide on their own", he said.

Maduro and his officials have repeatedly said the opposition's poll is not a legitimate electoral procedure and called the results "meaningless".

"So for us it's binding", Di Giovanni says, "and we are following the constitution".

"I was mugged three times in a year, " Monique recounted, and said her husband's house was broken into. Opposition leaders said that was because they were only able to set up 2,000 polling places in a symbolic exercise the government labeled as illegitimate.

Separately, journalist Luis Olavarrieta was kidnapped, robbed and beaten by what he said was a a group of government supporters, but managed to escape.

The opposition's unofficial poll attempts to determine what Venezuelans think about key criticisms against Maduro's regime - that Venezuela's institutions, including security forces and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice top court, work in Maduro's favor; that the National Assembly has been stripped of power; and that a majority of Venezuelans support the removal of Maduro as president.