CARACAS: Venezuela is in a state of crisis as the government has banned all protests that could affect or “disturb” Sunday's vote called by President Nicolas Maduro to elect a new law making body known as the Constituent Assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution.
Venezuelans have been observing a 48-hour general strike from Wednesday deploring the possibility that their President could gain more sweeping powers.
Venezuelan diplomat who resigned from his post in protest has warned that the country may fall into civil war.
“If the Sunday vote goes through, we are at the brink of civil war,” CNN quoted Isaias Medina, former minister counsellor at the Venezuelan Mission to the UN as saying.
There are 545 seats up for grabs and those elected would essentially replace the current National Assembly, which is controlled by opponents of President Nicolás Maduro's government.The newly elected body would rewrite the 1999 constitution, the cornerstone of former President Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution," which extended presidential term limits and allowed for indefinite re-elections.
Opposition leaders won a majority of seats in Venezuela's National Assembly in midterm elections in December 2015 because of the economic crisis the country has been facing and the results were a blow to the oil-rich country's socialist government that has held the congress for 16 years.
The political upheaval started in late March when the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved Parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself, which is stacked with government loyalists. The opposition claimed Maduro was creating a dictatorship as impeachment attempts were blocked by the Court.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions against 13 Venezuelan government officials. The sanctions come ahead of the planned July 30, 2017, election orchestrated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of a National Constituent Assembly that will have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution and dissolve all government institutions.
"As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime's ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom and the rule of law," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.