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Venezuela holds unofficial referendum on constitutional rewrite

[JURIST] The Venezuela government's opposition opened polls Sunday over President Nicolas Maduro's [CNN profile] call to rewrite the constitution [JURIST report]. Many have accused Maduro's plan to be undemocratic and a way to suppress the months of anti-government protests against his presidency. Maduro states [Miami Herald report] that the new assembly which would elect 527 members as it is the only solution to bring an end to the anti-government protests that have brought significant violence to the country. The opposition's vote is being held at over 2,000 polling stations and is also available to those abroad, with as many as 11 million of the 30 million population turning out to vote. The government has urged its supporters to boycott the vote as electoral officials have not approved it.

Venezuela has faced significant political unrest since the December 2015 election. In May the US Department of the Treasury announced sanctions [JURIST report] against Venezuelan Supreme Court justices for usurping democracy. In October the National Assembly voted to open criminal impeachment [JURIST report] proceedings against Maduro, alleging that he manipulated the constitution to remain in power. That same month the Assembly also declared [JURIST report] that there was a breakdown of constitutional order and that the government had staged a coup by blocking an attempt to remove Maduro from power. Instability peaked on March 30 when the Supreme Court of Venezuela dissolved [JURIST report] the opposition-controlled National Assembly and assumed all legislative powers.

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