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UPDATE: Crisis Intensifies in Venezuela Ahead of Controversial Vote, UN Voices Concern

As opposition leaders urge Venezuelans to boycott Sunday’s election for delegates to an assembly to rewrite the constitution, officials announce security measures including an order barring political protests.

A demonstrator wearing a mask adorned with rosaries stands near a barricade during a 48-hour general strike beginning Wednesday in protest of government plans to rewrite the constitution in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. President Nicolas Maduro is promoting the constitution rewrite as a means of resolving Venezuela’s political standoff and economic crisis, but opposition leaders are boycotting it. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

 

Just days away from a national vote to decide the delegates who will rewrite Venezuela’s constitution, President Nicolas Maduro’s government is trying a new method of clamping down on popular unrest: a complete ban on demonstrations nationwide for the next five days.

“It is prohibited throughout all national territory, all public meetings and demonstrations, gatherings and other similar acts that might disturb the electoral process,” Interior Minister Néstor Reverol announced Thursday on state-run media, according to a CNN translation.

On Friday, the United Nations’ human rights office voiced its concern about the risk of further violence in Venezuela as the country prepares for Sunday.

As opposition leaders urge Venezuelans to boycott Sunday’s election for delegates to an assembly to rewrite the constitution and  officials announce security measures including an order barring political protests through Tuesday, 
Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva Friday that “the wishes of the Venezuelan people to participate or not in this election need to be respected.”

She urged the government to manage any protests “in line with international human rights norms and standards” and also called on those opposing the election to do so peacefully.

 Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday ordered relatives of American diplomats to leave the Venezuelan capital ahead of a polarizing vote planned for Sunday to start rewriting the country’s constitution.

The State Department says it’s also allowing U.S. government workers to depart the embassy in Caracas and limiting the movement of those who stay. An updated travel warning also urges American citizens not to travel to Venezuela due to social unrest and violence.

The ordered departure comes three days before President Nicolas Maduro’s government plans to hold a vote for an assembly tasked with overhauling the country’s charter. Maduro’s opposition says the election rules are rigged to strengthen his hold on power.

The U.S. has been urging Maduro to cancel the vote and threatening more U.S. sanctions if occurs.

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