In Unofficial Vote, Venezuelans Overwhelmingly Reject Constitutional Rewrite

Fresno residents stand in solidarity with Venezuela protesters

Fresno residents stand in solidarity with Venezuela protesters

In early July, armed pro-government militias supporting Venezuela's controversial President Nicolas Maduro stormed the country's Parliament, and assaulted several opposition deputies amid the ongoing anti-government protests in the South American country.

Pope Francis did not mention the referendum, but as it was taking place, he again mentioned Venezuela at the end of his Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square.

Almost 7.2 million Venezuelans-lower than the projected 10.5 million out of 19 million possible voters-cast ballots in the symbolic election against Maduro, university guarantors said with 95 percent of votes counted.

On Sunday, after the referendum, Julio Borges, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, said that "Venezuela stood up with dignity".

"We must be aware of the differences we have in the country, we must resolve them with peace, with votes and not bullets, with tolerance, with democracy", continued Maduro.

"We don't want to be Cuba", he also said. "We have many people from throughout the Valley, and we're all coming together to show that we want freedom".

Maduro has slammed the opposition vote as meaningless and illegitimate.

"I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk", Maduro said. Everyone saw the long lines of voters. In the nonbinding referendum, roughly 98 percent of voters rejected President Nicolas Maduro's plan to replace the constitution.

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

Recently, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, who has worked closely with the USA state department and Venezuela, asked Cuba's Raul Castro, a close ally of Maduro, to intervene in the conflict.

Venezuelans living overseas were also given a chance to vote, with impromptu stations in the US, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Columbia - all popular destinations for the ever increasing number of refugees fleeing the crisis in Venezuela.

Over 7 million out of 19.5 million eligible voters have participated in the opposition poll, nearly the number of 7.7 million voters who backed the opposition in the last presidential elections.

State media largely ignored the event, concentrating instead on a trial run on Sunday for the July 30 vote, while Maduro allies accused the opposition of inflating vote numbers.

Protesters across Venezuela took to the streets on April 1 to demand the resignation of President Maduro, the successor of late leader Hugo Chavez and his leftist ideology, Chavism (Chavismo), after the country's courts tried to strengthen the regime even further.

The victim, a 61-year-old nurse, was shot dead in Caracas by gunmen on motorbikes while she queued to participate in the symbolic vote, and a journalist was kidnapped, robbed, and beaten before he managed to escape.

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