Tension continues to mount in Venezuela as the country prepares for a controversial vote that could rewrite its constitution.
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CARACAS, VenezuelaÂ âÂ Venezuelan election officials said 8 million peopleÂ voted Sunday to create a constitutional assembly endowing President NicolÃ¡s MaduroÂ with virtually unlimited powers, a vote total decried by domestic and foreign critics as a sham.
Venezuelaâs National Electoral Council’s estimated turnout Sunday was more than double thatÂ of political opponents and independent experts.
Opposition leaders also said 12 people were killed in violence in the face of a massive presence of troops around the country on Sunday. The government confirmed nine deaths.Â
Maduro, whoÂ faces a worseningÂ economic crisis despite Venezuela’s enormousÂ oil reserves, seeks to establish a friendlyÂ assembly that would bypass the opposition-controlled Congress toÂ rewrite the countryâs 1999Â constitution. Opponents accuse him of trying to create a single-party, authoritarian system like that in Cuba.Â
Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced just before midnight Sunday that turnout was 41.53%, or 8,089,320 people.
The count was met with mockery and anger from members of the opposition, who said they believed between 2 million and 3 million people voted.
Julio Borges, president of the opposition-led National Assembly, said only 7% of the electorateÂ hadÂ voted âÂ aÂ silent protest of Maduro’sÂ power grab, which would slam the brakes on democracy.
The opposition had urged voters to boycott the vote, but millions of Venezuelans who hold government jobs…