Venezuela crisis enters new phase with Sunday vote

It says Pence also repeated Trump's pledge to respond quickly with further economic actions if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro goes through with elections Sunday to choose a national assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Lawyer Jose Felix Pineda, 39, was killed from multiple shots fired by assailants who broke into his home overnight, prosecutors said.

Maduro's decree cracking down on demonstrations warned that those taking part risked up to 10 years in prison.

He is attempting to bolster his power by creating a new assembly which will tear up the constitution and effectively create a one-party state.

At least five people were killed last week alone, but the fight against a "constituent national assembly" - whose 545 members will be charged with rewriting the constitution - is yet to stop, and apparently won't even when election day has passed.

Four months of protests against Maduro have left more than 100 people dead amid fierce worldwide criticism with soldiers firing on protesters.

In this regard, he said that the people have been firm to defend the legacy of Commander Hugo Chavez, the Liberator Simon Bolivar and other heroes in the history of Venezuela.

In the west of the city, national guard troops fanned out, using armored vehicles, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters blocking roads.

State TV showed images of the president and first lady, Cilia Flores, flanked by advisers as they voted at a school in Caracas at 6 a.m. local time.

Turnout will be key to determining the legitimacy of the election.

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The US, the European Union, the Organization of American States, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico oppose the election, warning it could decapitate Venezuela's democracy and lead to further unrest.

On Wednesday, the United State imposed new sanctions on 13 current and former senior officials of Maduro's government.

Opinion polls say more than 70 percent of the country is opposed to Sunday's vote.

Several foreign airlines, including Air France, Delta, Avianca and Iberia have suspended flights to the country over worries about security.

"We're going to keep fighting, we're not leaving the streets", said opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan.

Maduro said the new legislature - called the Constituent Assembly - "will be the space, the power of powers, the super power that will, so to speak, recover the national spirit, find reconciliation, justice, find the truth".

Neighboring Colombia - a refuge for tens of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the chaos at home - said on Friday it would not recognize the results of Sunday's election in Venezuela.

Once one of Latin America's wealthiest nations, Venezuela has spiraled into a devastating crisis during Maduro's four years in power, thanks to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Some in Maduro's administration have broken ranks with him, most prominently his attorney general. Two diplomats resigned this week in dissent: one at the United Nations and another at the embassy in Panama.

The opposition has urged defiance of the protest ban by calling for demonstrations to intensify.

  • Toni Ryan