Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Venezuela’s opposition kicked off a symbolic vote on Sunday seen likely to reject plans by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the constitution, upping pressure on the beleaguered leader after months of violent street protests.

The call to polls — described as a “plebiscite” by the opposition, but “illegal” by the government — is over Maduro’s intention to have a citizens’ body elected to redraft the country’s basic law.

To detract from the opposition vote, his government was on Sunday holding a dry-run simulation of that election, which is to be held on July 30.

Several Latin American countries and the Catholic Church have criticized the move to draw up a new constitution, while the opposition has slammed it as bid by Maduro to concentrate dictatorial powers to stay in power.

The electoral struggle is being played out against a backdrop of pro- and anti-Maduro demonstrations — which have left nearly 100 people dead since April 1 — and a near-collapse of the oil-rich nation’s economy.

Although the National Electoral Council, which sides with Maduro, has not authorized Sunday’s vote, the opposition is expecting a big turnout.

Already early Sunday in Caracas there were lines in parts of the city in front of makeshift polling stations.

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Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Two Venezuelan residents in Madrid, show their little fingers stained with ink after voting during a symbolic plebiscite on president Maduro’s project of a future constituent assembly, called by the Venezuelan opposition and held at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid on July 16, 2017. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

People wait to cast their ballots on July 16, 2017 in Caracas, in an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, against a backdrop of worsening political violence. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Venezuelan residents in Madrid register themselves at a polling station to vote during a symbolic plebiscite on president Maduro’s project of a future constituent assembly, called by the Venezuelan opposition and held at the Plaza Colon in Madrid on July 16, 2017. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A woman votes in Caracas on July 16, 2017 in an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

People line up to vote at a polling station 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. The writing on the paper reads “July 16, Yes, Yes, Yes, Referendum.” (Christian Veron/Reuters)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A person votes during an unofficial plebiscite against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government, in Sao Paulo, Brazil July 16, 2017. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Venezuelan cast their vote during a poll called ‘popular consultation’ at Colon Square in in Caracas, Venezuela on 16 July 2017. Venezuelans are able to vote organised by the opposition to express their support or rejection to the plan by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the constitution through an election of a citizens’ body on July 30, 2017. (Miguel Gutierrez/EPA/REX/Shutterstock)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A man shows his ID card and ballot at a polling station in Caracas on July 16, 2017 during an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
Authorities have refused to greenlight the vote that has been presented as an act of civil disobedience and supporters of Maduro are boycotting it. Protests against Maduro since April 1 have brought thousands to the streets demanding elections, but has also left 95 people dead, according to an official toll. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Venezuelan residents in Madrid queue to vote during a symbolic plebiscite on president Maduro’s project of a future constituent assembly, called by the Venezuelan opposition and held at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid on July 16, 2017. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A child casts a ballot during a symbolic plebiscite on Venezuelan president Maduro’s project of a future constituent assembly, called by the Venezuelan opposition and held in Barcelona on July 16, 2017. (Lluis Gene /AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A Venezuelan resident in Madrid stamps fingerprint at a polling station during a symbolic plebiscite on president Maduro’s project of a future constituent assembly, called by the Venezuelan opposition and held at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid on July 16, 2017. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

People hold a national flag while gathering at a polling station 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. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Leopoldo Lopez Gil, father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, votes during an unofficial plebiscite against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Rome, Italy July 16, 2017. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

A woman with a walker heads to a polling station as others queue in Caracas on July 16, 2017 during an opposition-organized vote to measure public support for President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

People cast their votes 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. The writing on the box reads “The people decide, Liberator Movement.” (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Venezuelans cast ballots in symbolic opposition vote

Leopoldo Lopez Gil, father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez sings the national anthem as he arrives to vote during an unofficial plebiscite against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Rome, Italy July 16, 2017. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

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