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 President NicolÃ¡s Maduro cast his vote Sunday for the powerful constitutional assembly he championed while foes boycotted the polls and accused the controversial leader ofÂ a power grab that would slam the brakes on democracy.
The beleaguered South American nation isÂ electing members to the new assembly that would rewrite the countryâs 1999Â constitution and possibly create a single-party, authoritarian system.Â
Maduro’s vision has drawn ire in Washington. Last week, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials, and the White House and some congressman said stiffer sanctions could follow. Mexico said it would support U.S. sanctions, and the Organization of American States and the European Parliament have also expressed support for the opposition.
In Venezuela, opposition leaders refused to put up candidates, arguingÂ the election has been structured to ensure that Maduroâs ruling socialist party dominates.Â Thus virtually all the more than 5,000 candidates for 545 assembly seats are Maduro supporters.
The opposition vowed to protestÂ despite a ban on public gatheringsÂ issued by Maduro. In some parts of the capital, people took to the streets in protest against the vote, but they were soon repelled by security forces throwing tear gas.
Opinion polls indicated more than two-thirds of the nation opposed the president’s efforts, and early voting at many polling places was light.Â The opposition…