Millions vote in Venezuela poll

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Millions vote in Venezuela poll

Sunday, almost 7.2 million Venezuelans voted in a hastily arranged referendum created to voice their opposition to the socialist president's plans to rewrite the country's constitution.

"This is really important because I think it's the first step in recovering our country because it's really bad right now", Claudia Cabrera, a local Venezuelan resident, said. "We carried out a democratic quake to break down walls and achieve a change", Julio Borges, the leader of the National Assembly, said in a statement Monday.

Venezuelans living overseas were also given a chance to vote, with impromptu stations in the US, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Columbia - all popular destinations for the ever increasing number of refugees fleeing the crisis in Venezuela.

The opposition also said the country's National Assembly, which it controls, would name new members to the government-dominated Supreme Court, setting up a showdown with President Nicolas Maduro, whose party controls almost all other state institutions.

"The result is a remarkable show of force for Venezuela's opposition", New York-based Torino Capital said, noting participation also meant openly defying the government.

Venezuelan opposition leaders are calling on supporters to escalate street protests after more than 7 million people rejected a government plan to rewrite the constitution and consolidate its power.

A total of 7,186,170 Venezuelans participated in the unofficial referendum on Sunday despite it not being backed by the government, reports Efe news.

The central question before voters concerned Maduro's intention to hold an election on July 30 to choose 545 members of a citizens' body called the "Constituent Assembly" that would redo the constitution.

Maduro has slammed the opposition vote as meaningless and illegitimate.

State media largely ignored Sunday's poll, concentrating instead on a simultaneous, government-organized practice run for the July 30 vote.

The MUD sees establishment of the ANC, which will rewrite the Constitution, as a power grab by President Nicolas Maduro.

"Today, Venezuela said yes to a dignified country, a democratic country, a country where people do not have to go because they have no future". "The situation in Venezuela will be part of the conversation with President Castro, seeing how we can come to a solution, that dialogue is re-established, that there are paths to a deal".

The simulation on Sunday was supervised by the Venezuelan military, with soldiers deployed to ensure there are no acts of violence at all elections.

The bishops have called for there a "Day of Prayer and Fasting" to be held on 21 July in order to ask "God to bless the attempts of the Venezuelan people to achieve liberty, justice and peace".

Venezuelan bishops have warned that President Maduro is seeking to establish a "socialist, Marxist and militaristic" state as tensions continue to rise in the Latin American country. "As if they are autonomous and decide on their own", he said. Venezuela's opposition called for a massive turnout Sunday in a symbolic rejection of Presid. "But these 7 million people spoke and it was plenty". The coalition has said it will do that in coming days to keep the vote secret and prevent reprisals by officials.

It is unclear what changes Maduro plans to enact, but opposition members fear any branch of government that doesn't fall in line with Maduro will be left powerless.

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