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Caracas, Jul 30 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro voted today in the election held today in Venezuela to select 537 members out of the 545 seats of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

In opposition-dominated eastern Caracas, riot police used tear gas to stop protesters from gathering for a march on the capital's main highway.

The regime says it has dispatched more than 370,000 troops across the country to secure Sunday's vote.

Maduro has previously said that his plan for a national assembly would "modify" the "rotten National Assembly that's now there", and the elected constituents would represent all sectors of Venezuelan society.

"I'm here because I'm hoping for housing", said Luisa Marquez, a 46-year-old hairdresser.

As well as Pineda, a 61-year-old nurse lost his life after being shot near a church just a few hundred feet from the centre where Maduro voted.

The vote, which follows the postponement of regional elections and Maduro's repeated refusal to heed decisions by Congress, has brought global condemnation.

US President Donald Trump has warned that his administration could impose economic sanctions on Venezuela if Maduro goes ahead with the vote to create the legislative superbody.

"We've stoically withstood the terrorist, criminal violence", Maduro said.

Accompanied by close advisers and state media, Maduro voted at 6:05 a.m. local time, far earlier and less publicly than in previous elections. "Hopefully the world will respectfully extend its arms toward our country".

As Maduro effectively steers his country toward one-party rule, he sets it on a collision course with the United States, which buys almost half of Venezuela's oil.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met with opposition leaders, and on July 26, the USA added 13 senior Venezuelan officials to its sanctions list as part of efforts to deter the constitution rewrite.

"The right wing already has its prison cell waiting", the president said.

Saying the assembly will begin to govern within a week, Maduro said its first task in rewriting the constitution will be "a total transformation" of the office of Venezuela's chief prosecutor, a former government loyalist who has become the highest-ranking official to publicly split from the president. Mexico, Colombia and Panama also sanctioned the same individuals.

Opposition parties are boycotting what they call a rigged election while their sympathizers plan demonstrations across the country during the day - raising the prospect of violent clashes with tens of thousands of troops deployed to safeguard the vote.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of severe economic conditions: inflation is in triple figures, the economy has contracted by 35% in four years, and food shortages have led to widespread hunger and emigration. The opposition says that more than 7 million voters - from a population of around 32 million - overwhelmingly rejected Maduro's proposal in an unofficial referendum it organised this month.


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