Florida's Venezuelans Came Out In Full Force For Unofficial Vote

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Just two weeks before an election to decide the delegates who will rewrite Venezuela's national constitution, opposition activists held a symbolic vote of their own on Sunday.

Xiomara Escot, 61, was killed when a pro-government armed group opened fire at the El Carmen Church polling station in Catia, an impoverished neighbourhood in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

The rector of the Central University of Venezuela, Cecilia García Arocha, said 6,492,381 people voted inside Venezuela and another 693,789 at polling stations overseas.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan opposition leaders called Monday for a 24-hour nationwide strike to increase pressure on the socialist government after more than 7 million people rejected a plan to rewrite the constitution and consolidate the ruling party's power over the country, which has been stricken by shortages and inflation and riven by more than 100 days of clashes between protesters and police.

In the nonbinding referendum, roughly 98 percent of voters rejected President Nicolas Maduro's plan to replace the constitution.

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Venezuelan bishops have warned that President Maduro is seeking to establish a "socialist, Marxist and militaristic" state as tensions continue to rise in the Latin American country.

The Brazilian government says an opposition-organized referendum in Venezuela is "unequivocal proof" that the people there want to see the restoration of the democratic rule of law.

Mr Maduro and military dominate most state institutions, but the Opposition controls Congress and holds three of 23 governorships.

More than seven million voters took part in the unofficial referendum in Venezuela on Sunday, out of a total of 19.5 million eligible voters.

However, it fell short of the opposition's 7.7 million-vote showing in 2015 legislative elections and the 7.5 million votes that brought Maduro to power in 2013. "This vote was made with 14,000 polling stations, when in a normal election there are 45,000", he said at the end of the day.

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When asked if the European Union will explore sanctions against Venezuelan leaders, Mogherini echoed the Spanish foreign affairs minister that defended "specific" and "selective" sanctions against "individual" leaders in Venezuela if the elections to the Constituent Assembly are held.

I'm not sure there is any going backwards from here.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada said on VTV government television that he was declaring former Mexican president Vicente Fox persona non grata and banning him from the country for conspiring to instigate violence and foreign intervention. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices. The people expressed themselves and told the Executive what they want: they want peace. "The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people".

But she said it's falling apart in the hands of the government. However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

The so-called plebiscite was organized outside the formal electoral system, so its results were rejected in advance by the government, which faces a wave of protests that continues after over 100 days and has left nearly a hundred dead.

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