Protesters, Troops Clash in Venezuela Ahead of Sunday’s Controversial Election

A protester shoots a firework from a pipe at national guard members during clashes Friday, July 28, in Caracas. Demonstrators blocked some streets in the capital in defiance of President Nicolás Maduro’s ban on protests ahead of a controversial election. The vote will elect a special assembly aiming to rewrite the constitution at Maduro’s request, and follows months of sometimes deadly protests.

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro are calling for continued protests ahead of Sunday’s controversial election, a day after demonstrators clashed with national guard troops in the capital in defiance of a protest ban.

Opposition leaders have vowed unrest before the election of a “constituent national assembly” that would rewrite the constitution at Maduro’s request — a move that the leftist leader’s critics say could consolidate his power and lead to a dictatorship.

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and troops fired rubber bullets in the air Friday afternoon in one part of the capital, Caracas, video distributed by Reuters showed. Dozens of people were arrested, Reuters reported.

Maduro’s regime has forbidden protests through Tuesday, saying violators will face prison terms of five to 10 years. It says it has dispatched more than 370,000 troops across the country to secure Sunday’s vote.

The opposition wants to stop the election, which likely would favor Maduro as his opponents largely are not running. Opposition leaders have called for protesters to gather Sunday at a freeway in Caracas and main streets throughout the country.

“What are they going to do? Arrest millions of people who protest?” opposition leader Henrique Capriles told reporters Friday.

Protesters blocked more than a dozen intersections Friday in Caracas. In one instance, about 120 people gathered at and near an intersection in the Altamira neighborhood.

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SOURCE: CNN, Jason Hanna