Venezuela will vote Sunday to elect a new ruling assembly

International News

Protesters were arrested in the Bello Campo neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, as a general strike against the government's plans to write a new constitution entered its second day on July 27.

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Caracas, said that - while thousands protested across the country - the government's ban on protests seems to have also intimidated many into staying off the streets.

Maduro on Thursday warned that anyone taking part in protests against his "Constituent Assembly" risked up to 10 years in prison.

Venezuela's opposition, bolstered by an unofficial vote on July 16 that saw a third of the electorate reject Maduro's plan, has called for a boycott of Sunday's vote.

Several countries and global organizations, including the USA and European Union, have condemned the vote for Sunday. "What unifies us today in this cause isn't interference in another country's affairs, but support for its people", he said.

The opposition in Venezuela had previously asked the government to call for a National Constituent Assembly to change the country's constitution and demanded elections.

But Maduro repeated "there was no going back" during a public ceremony where he said the process will be "a great space for dialogue" that will serve to build a "new productive economy".

"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 United Nations as saying. On Wednesday, first lady Cilia Flores, who Maduro calls Venezuela's "First Combatant", said the assembly will create a peace and justice commission that will ensure those responsible for the current political upheaval "pay and learn their lesson". Although the ruling was partially rescinded, street protests have continued over food scarcities, rising crime and Maduro's autocratic actions, including what some describe as an illegal effort to rewrite the constitution.

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While emphasizing that the constituent assembly was "not convoked by the people", the Venezuelan bishops urged government and opposition supporters to resist resorting to violence.

The assembly is to be tasked with amending the constitution passed under Maduro's late predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez. The opposition wanted to impeach Maduro after it won a National Assembly majority, but he stacked the Supreme Court with his supporters, blocking any impeachment attempts.

RT spoke to both ends of the political spectrum to get a closer look at the situation in Venezuela just one day ahead of the elections to the Constituent Assembly.

The opposition is also calling for early elections and respect of the opposition-controlled congress, as well as cancelling the Constitutuent Assembly plans. But allies of the socialist president say the assembly will target opposition leaders, stirring warnings Maduro will use the assembly to install an autocratic regime.

Protests during the stoppage have left three people dead - two men, aged 30 and 23, in the western province of Merida, and a 14-year-old boy in an eastern Caracas slum, according to prosecutors.

NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière echoed Mr. Kent, saying Canada should consult with allies to respond to the Venezuelan crisis.

Global concern has mounted, with the United States, European Union, United Nations and major Latin American nations urging Mr. Inflation is expected to jump 720 percent and unemployment to reach 28 percent this year, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund.

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