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Venezuelans Cast 'Symbolic' Votes in Unofficial Referendum

A woman casts her vote during an unofficial plebiscite against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government and his plan to rewrite the constitution, in Caracas, Venezuela, July 16, 2017.

Venezuelans are casting ballots in an unofficial opposition organized "referendum" Sunday on President Nicolas Maduro's bid to hold a July 30 election for a new assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Dozens of people lined up ahead of the 7 a.m. open of polls Sunday morning, and throughout the day thousands more lined up to cast their votes, the opposition said Sunday. Fourteen million ballots were printed ahead of the referendum.

The polls will close at 4 p.m., but remain open as long as voters are still in line.

Volunteers and delegates, mostly dressed in white, manned tents and tables at thousands of polling centers around the country.

About 10,000 Venezuelans are reported to have voted from abroad in Madrid alone. Polls in Spain's capital will be open until 8pm local time.

Maduro has called the vote illegal and his supporters are boycotting it. But the opposition maintains that the referendum is justified.

"Following our rights, in the article 333 and 350 of our constitution we the people of Venezuela have decided to vote and decide the future of our country," Maria Corina Machado, Spokesperson for Venezuelan Opposition, told VOA Spanish.

"And it is a future of freedom, of peace, and democracy," she said, calling on Venezuelan citizens in the country and abroad to cast their votes.

The vote may serve to further increase pressure to remove Maduro, who is the subject of mounting criticism amid months of violent protests against food shortages and rampant inflation.

At least 90 people have died in clashes among anti-government demonstrators, security forces and Maduro supporters.