Nicolas Maduro Declared that the American Sanctions are Illegal

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 United States chose to target individuals for alleged human rights abuses, undermining democracy and corruption, while sparing the country for now from broader financial or "sectoral" sanctions against its vital oil industry - though such actions, the officials told Reuters, are still under consideration. "The election is set up in a way that all but ensures the assembly will be packed with Maduro supporters".

Facing intense foreign pressure including the threat of economic sanctions by U.S. President Donald Trump, Maduro has vowed the vote will go ahead despite "imperial" pressure. At least four people were killed in last week's general.

In an effort to get Mr Maduro to agree to negotiations, the bloc is threatening measures against Venezuela if it decides its government - whose membership of the organisation was suspended a year ago - is in violation of the Ushuaia Protocol, which commits all Mercosur members to democratic norms.

"Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential US sanctions", Mnuchin said.

The opposition and United States aim to force Maduro to abandon his plan to form a 545-member "Constituent Assembly", which is set to be elected on Sunday. "The government of the world?" he said.

The street protests began in response to decisions by Venezuela's Supreme Court to temporarily assume some of the responsibilities of the opposition-minded National Assembly, and to revoke the immunity of the legislators.

The most serious of the potential future steps would be financial sanctions that would halt dollar payments for the country's oil, starving the government of hard currency, or a total ban on oil imports to the United States, Venezuela's biggest customer.

But Maduro has pushed on, accusing Washington of fomenting unrest against him, aided by the conservative opposition.

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Three days of protests are planned leading up to Sunday's vote, starting with the strike and culminating Friday with a demonstration billed as a "takeover of Caracas". Millions took part in a one-day strike from last Wednesday, during which five people died in clashes.

Meanwhile, thousands of Venezuelans have fled the unrest this week, crossing the border into Colombia laden with heavy bags.

Thirteen countries in the 35-member Organisation of American States, a regional political bloc, urged Maduro to suspend Sunday's election.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund predicts.

Avianca had served Venezuela for more than 60 years, but along with other airlines, had encountered operational challenges in recent years.

Some 70 per cent of Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.

Maduro critics also held an unofficial vote on July 16 to demonstrate public opposition.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez appealed to the military, which is fiercely loyal to the president, to withdraw its support from Maduro's plan, which he called a "constitutional fraud" aimed at eliminating democratic rule.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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