[JURIST] Violent protests in Venezuela broke out on Sunday as the nation held a controversial election for a new assembly that would have the power to rewrite the nation's constitution. Activists clashed [Reuters report] with security forces in retaliation against the bill, resulting in at least seven deaths. Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro's [Reuters profile] has claimed that the new Constituent Assembly, which would elect 527 members, is the only solution [JURIST report] to bring an end to the anti-government protests that have brought significant violence to the country. Critics have accused Maduro of plotting to dissolve the opposition-controlled Congress and change laws to solidify his party's power in the government. In an effort to show their disapproval of the new assembly, the public largely boycotted Sunday's election, with polling stations being reported as mostly empty. The opposition has expressed their intention to increase their resistance against the Maduro administration.
Venezuela has faced significant political unrest since the opposition gained control of the National Assembly in December 2015. Earlier this week Venezuela's opposition party made a call [JURIST report] for a 48-hour general strike to be held next Wednesday and Thursday in response to the scheduled election. A non-binding referendum vote [JURIST report] was held in Venezuela earlier this month in regards to the proposed new constitution which showed that 98 percent of the voters rejected the new constitution. The vote was boycotted by many government supporters. 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.