At least 14 killed in street battles during constitutional assembly voting in Venezuela (VIDEO)

At least 14 killed in street battles during constitutional assembly voting in Venezuela (VIDEO)The United States has vowed to take strong and swift action against the “architects of authoritarianism” in Venezuela after protesters and security forces fought deadly street battles during voting for President Nicolás Maduro’s controversial constitutional assembly.

This is reported by The Guardian.

Many voters decided against taking part in an election the opposition said would turn the country into a full-fledged dictatorship.

As many as 14 people died in the protests, according to opposition leader Henrique Capriles, and the prosecutor’s office confirmed at least six people were killed by gunfire, including one national guardsman. Seven policemen were wounded in an explosion in the opposition stronghold neighbourhood of Altamira.

However, the leader of the ruling socialist party, Jorge Rodriguez, said there was “not one death related to the voting process today”, underscoring the contrasting versions of the day presented by the two clashing sides.

An official report of a “positive” election process by the National Electoral Council contrasted with continued reports of clashes and widespread abstention as people either heeded opposition calls for a boycott or feared getting caught up in street clashes.

The council extended voting for one hour, claiming many who had wanted to cast their vote earlier had been unable to do so.

In the working-class district of Petare, where many residents said they had been threatened with losing government subsidies or jobs if they did not vote, few people turned out to vote. But at the Poliedro sporting arena, where Caracas residents who were unable to reach their designated polling centre were permitted to cast their votes, voters described huge crowds standing in line.

The constituent assembly has been heavily criticised by foreign government including from the United States, the UK and neighbouring Colombia. On Sunday, Peru and Argentina said they would not recognise the outcome of the vote.

Maduro has said the assembly will help bring peace to the politically split country, but the opposition, and increasingly the international community, have warned that it will only serve for Maduro and the ruling socialist party to tighten their grip on power. The new assembly will be convened within 72 hours of the election and will function with virtually unlimited powers. Maduro and his closest allies have vowed to use the assembly to jail key opposition leaders, remove the country’s outspoken chief prosecutor from her post and strip opposition legislators of their constitutional immunity.

Polls show that Maduro, successor to Hugo Chávez, who set the country on a socialist path, has only about a 20-point approval rating and that 70% of Venezuelans do not want the constitution of 1999 rewritten.
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