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Few Venezuelans Defy Ban on Demonstrations Ahead of Controversial Vote 


Demonstrators prepare a roadblock at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 27, 2017.

Few protesters defied a ban on demonstrations in Venezuela ahead of a controversial election called by President Nicolas Maduro.

Some demonstrators put up barricades along main roads in the country’s capital, Caracas, pelted by rain and tear gas canisters fired by police.

However, most streets were largely empty a day after Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced that authorities were prohibiting any demonstrations from taking place through Tuesday.

The opposition had hoped to attract large numbers of people, as they had earlier in the week before the ban on demonstrations took effect.

Maduro warned Thursday that anyone defying the ban risks up to 10 years in prison.

The protesters are demonstrating against Sunday’s controversial vote for a constituent assembly whose 545 members will be charged with rewriting the country’s constitution. Critics charge that only Maduro supporters are candidates and that they could revise the charter to keep him in office indefinitely.

“Prepare to deepen the conflict, a conflict that will be hard. But we will win because they cannot crush us all,” legislator Freddy Guevara, first vice president of the opposition-led parliament, said Thursday night.

The lawmaker said opposition leaders soon would present “a whole agenda of mobilization and pressure” to delegitimize what he called a “farce” of an election.

On Friday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke by telephone to a detained prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest. A statement from Pence’s office said the vice president praised Lopez’s courage. He also reiterated the White House’s pledge to impose “strong and swift economic actions” if Sunday’s vote goes ahead.

The United States this week imposed sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan officials, including police and army chiefs.

Earlier in the week, Venezuela’s opposition held two days of mass strikes. They followed almost four months of often-violent demonstrations. At least 102 people have died in clashes among Maduro’s opponents, his backers and security forces.