Opposition holds referendum on Venezuela's political future

    16 de julio de 2017

    Caracas, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- Polling places opened across Venezuela Sunday for the referendum organized by the opposition on the country's political future.

    "We're making history, this is a process carried out by citizens alone without the intervention of the government ... the 2,030 voting sites opened successfully," National Assembly speaker Julio Borges, the leader of the opposition Justice First party (PJ), told Capitolio TV.

    Some polling places opened a few minutes before the 7:00 am start time for the referendum, which the opposition organized as part of a strategy to counter President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to overhaul the constitution.

    The polling places are all open and operating normally, Borges said, adding that four voting sites had to be moved.

    The lawmaker did not explain why one voting site in the Caracas suburb of Libertador, two in the northeastern state of Nueva Esparta and one in the western state of Zulia had to be moved to nearby areas.

    Opposition leaders received reports that residents of some Caracas neighborhoods were blocking streets as part of anti-governemnt protests and called on the demonstrators to cease their actions and allow "open passage to all people," Borges said.

    "With all the power of the people, we are creating the reality that we will very soon have a country for all Venezuelans and not just for some," the opposition leader said.

    The non-binding referendum allows citizens to weigh in on whether they agree with Maduro's plan to convene a constitutional assembly on July 30 and if they support replacing the administration with a transition government.

    The National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, said in a Twitter post that the voting sites selected for the referendum opened on time "across the country."

    An EFE reporter confirmed that some polling places, including one in Palos Grandes plaza in the Caracas suburb of Chacao, opened early.

    The MUD opposition alliance set up 2,300 voting sites across Venezuela and recruited 47,272 workers and 80,000 volunteers for the referendum.

    Venezuelans living in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Egypt voted on Saturday, while those in 100 other countries are voting on Sunday at 667 voting sites in 602 cities.

    The Attorney General's Office confirmed that a woman died Sunday and three people were wounded on the west side of Caracas, when a group of armed men opened fire outside a polling station for the opposition referendum against the imposition of a Constituent Assembly.

    The AG's office identified the victim as Xiomara Escot, and said that three other people were wounded "during an irregular situation in Catia," according to a brief message on Twitter.

    Since April 1, Venezuela has experienced a wave of mostly anti-government protests that have left nearly 100 people dead and some 1,500 others injured.