Phone calls, dismissal threats: Venezuela pressures state workers to vote

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With these two victims, a total of six people have died since July 26, the first day of the 48-hour general strike called by the opposition against the election of a National Constituent Assembly scheduled for Sunday.

The opposition is boycotting the vote and asked backers to block streets starting Friday afternoon despite the official protest ban. The new constituent assembly، comprising 545 members، will rival the National Assembly، now controlled by the opposition. And the crisis is creating fears in neighbouring countries of a refugee crisis, with 150 Venezuelans a day seeking asylum in Brazil alone and an estimated 550,000 living undocumented in Colombia.

Washington has imposed successive rounds of sanctions on members of Maduro's administration and U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence on Friday promised "strong and swift economic actions" after Sunday's vote.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and his wife Cilia Flores are seen making fists during an act of the Government in Caracas, Venezuela, 27 July 2017. The 46-year-old former Caracas-area mayor, who was sentenced to 14 years in 2015 after being convicted of inciting violence during a previous spate of protests, also appealed to the military not to deploy for Sunday's election.

Another lawmaker at the news conference, U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, said he hoped Maduro will "take a deep breath" and back off.

Cilia Flores, Maduro's wife and a candidate for the new assembly, has said the new pro-Maduro members will install a separate justice commission "to determine those responsible for these awful damages", including politicians who she says has promoted violence.

NAN reports that 100 people have died in anti-government unrest convulsing Venezuela since April, when the opposition launched protests demanding conventional elections to end almost two decades of socialist rule.

The new assembly would comprise 545 citizens chosen from across the country, and from societal sectors over which Maduro's government holds influence meaning opposition voices would be diluted or excluded.

"Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are?"

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Human rights organizers said another activist, a 23-year-old violinist famous for playing at anti-government protests, had been arrested in Caracas.

Late Thursday the prosecutor's office released a list of 109 dead from violence related to demonstrations and street blockades across the country.

Protesters blocked more than a dozen intersections Friday in Caracas.

Given Canada's concerns about the Maduro regime, Ms. Todgham Cherniak said she wonders why the government has not yet sanctioned any Venezuelans.

Santos says he will continue advocating for a peaceful resolution to Venezuela's almost four months of political upheaval that has left at least 113 people dead.

With private discussions reportedly failing, Venezuelan state media claimed Friday that Maduro has made a public plea for dialogue with the opposition. The decision was quickly reversed but it sparked a protest movement demanding a new presidential election.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12% this year, after a contraction of 18% last year, according to the latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund.

Responding to questions, Ms. Throssell said the situation in the country is "very tense and hard".