Voting is underway in the South American nation of Venezuela to elect a new national assembly, with powers to rewrite the country’s constitution.
Here in SVG Venezuelan Ambassador, to the state Yuri Pimentel has defended President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the nation’s constitution, saying it is aimed at bringing about peace.
The opposition is boycotting the vote which it says is a power grab by President Nicolás Maduro.
Ambassador Pimentel speaking on local radio WFM said today’s election would seek to appoint 545 people to sit on a body called the Constituent Assembly.
The Ambassador said the move to establish the Constituent Assembly is a legal one, which is contemplated in the National Constitution (articles 347, 348 and 349), and is a mechanism that will allow for promotion of a great process of national dialogue directly from the grassroots.
To create calm ahead of the vote, the government imposed a ban on protests and threatened jail terms for anyone flouting it.On the eve of the vote, protesters blocked roads in the capital Caracas in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.
In a speech broadcast on TV, President Maduro predicted a “big victory”, calling the vote “the most important election held in Venezuela’s political system”.
However, electoral council chief Tibisay Lucena acknowledged that some voting machines had been attacked and burned in parts of the country.
More than 6,000 candidates are standing for a constituent assembly, but none are from the opposition. The new body will have the power to bypass the National Assembly, currently controlled by an alliance of opposition parties.
Neighbouring Colombia has said it will not recognise the constituent assembly. France, Spain, the US and the EU have also urged the government to cancel the vote, but to no avail.
Opposition leaders pledged to fight on even after the election.