‘Massive turnout for constituent assembly voting’

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Caracas, July 31 (IANS) Venezuelans turned out in large numbers to vote for a constituent assembly to amend the constitution, Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Sunday.

“The people have turned out en masse to exercise this fundamental human right, this right that shows Venezuelans’ civic spirit (and) commitment to building a country in a peaceful and democratic way,” Xinhua quoted El Aissami as saying.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. local time for elections to choose the members of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to debate and amend the Constitution, an initiative proposed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro to resolve the political crisis and rejected by the opposition as an attempt to consolidate his power.

Caracas-based news network Telesur posted photos on its website that showed large crowds or long lines at polling stations in different parts of the country.

The coalition of conservative opposition parties, known by its Spanish acronym MUD, contested reports that turnout was robust, posting images of abandoned streets outside what it alleged were polling stations on Sunday.

According to El Aissami, voting was proceeding smoothly, except for an “isolated incident” in Tachira state that authorities brought under control. He gave no further details.

He also called Sunday’s vote “a turning point towards a Venezuela with equality (and) social justice.”

Despite the opposition calling on its supporters to defy a ban against anti-government demonstrations, there were no reports of major disturbances, according to electoral officials.

However, pockets of violent protest continued to break out in certain areas.

–IANS

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