Clashes kill 3 during Venezuela's anti-Maduro general strike

The opposition, emboldened by an unofficial referendum against Maduro last week, is boycotting the election, which they say is rigged in Maduro's favor. Its No. 1 demand is conventional elections, including for the presidency, to remove Maduro.

The Venezuelan prosecutor's office said a 23-year-old man died in western Merida state, while a 16-year-old boy died in the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Petare during clashes between security forces and young masked protesters on Wednesday.

"The government is only concerned with its own survival and does not yet appear to be convinced that the game is up and it needs to negotiate an exit strategy", Phillip Gunson, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Caracas, told dpa.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, announcing America's sanctions yesterday, warned that any of the 545 members to be elected to Maduro's Constituent Assembly could also face US punishment.

Venezuela's opposition-led general strike entered its second day Thursday as adversaries of President Nicolas Maduro protest his plans to hold a weekend vote that could lead to a rewrite of the country's constitution.

The U.S. officials said the "designated" individuals were accused of supporting Maduro's crackdown, harming democratic institutions or victimizing the Venezuelan people through corruption, and that additional "bad actors" could be sanctioned later. "For us, it's recognition of morality, loyalty to the nation, and civic honesty".

In addition to the strike, the opposition has vowed to continue to stage protests, including a massive march scheduled to take place in Caracas on Friday. Their goal: For Maduro to abandon his plans for a new constitution, opposition leaders said at a news conference.

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On July 20, Venezuela faced a 24-hour opposition-staged strike ahead of the Constitutional Assembly, which will be charged with rewriting the constitution.

"It's the only way to show we are not with Maduro".

USA officials said the individual sanctions aimed to show Maduro that Washington would make good on a threat of "strong and swift economic actions" if he goes ahead with Sunday's vote.

Among those hit by the sanctions were Tibisay Lucena Ramirez, the president of the National Electoral Council and president of Venezuela's National Board of Elections; Elias Jose Jaua Milano, Minister of Education and head of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly; Tarek William Saab Halabi, the president of Venezuela's Republican Moral Council; and Maria Iris Varela Rangel, a Member of Venezuela's Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly.

Avianca will suspend its Venezuela flights from today, ending service abruptly to the crisis-ridden country instead of withdrawing in August as announced yesterday. It cited security concerns for the move.

And with widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, more and more locals are either joining the strikes or crossing the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

"The elections are on Sunday and we really don't know what will happen", said one, Maria de los Angeles Pichardo, who left with her husband and son.

  • Adam Floyd