Venezuelans Begin Nationwide Strike Against Referendum Sought by Maduro

Venezuelan's opposition calls new strike, violence flares

Venezuela's opposition is hurling boycotts, protests and strikes at the president right now

Sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison, Lopez was granted house arrest earlier this month, and his video message on Wednesday marks the first he has sent to the country after spending three and a half years in the Ramo Verde military prison near Caracas.

"Businessmen, do not open [your businesses], workers do not attend work, and all people go out and [shut down] the streets", said Jose Manuel Olivares, consituent assembly deputy and opposition member.

Two more people named to an alternative Supreme Court in defiance of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government were arrested on Wednesday by intelligence agents during a fast-escalating political showdown, the opposition said.

On the eve of the strike, a sign of the prevailing tension and of fears of further violence, Venezuelans were split between those who were full of provisions, and those who tried outright to leave the country.

"I loathe all these strikes, and all the acts of violence that are taking place in my country".

That led to a war of words between Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and then-Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez, who quit the post to run for a government seat.

Avianca Executive President Hernan Rincon says he laments the decision, "but our obligation is to guarantee the safety of the operation".

"It is time to give it all". "In eight days, we will have the Constitutent Assembly", Maduro said on state TV on Saturday night, where at one point he sang along to John Lennon's "Imagine".

The U.S. also said it had determined that Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, hit with U.S. sanctions in February, had "hundreds of millions of dollars" in assets that have been frozen due to the sanctions.

Machado Ventura adds that it is up to the Venezuelan people and Maduro's government to overcome their challenges "without foreign meddling in their internal affairs".

That brazen assault preceded a national referendum, organized by opposition parties, to gauge support for Maduro's plan to redraft the constitution.

Over the weekend, Maduro said his government was "ready for any scenario". Many of those deaths are blamed on armed motorcycle gangs of government supporters known as "colectivos" who are often seen shooting indiscriminately at protesters while police and soldiers stand by.

But many citizens are willing to press on with the strike. In the first few hours of the national boycott on all business, areas dominated by the opposition were reportedly deserted, while other areas only showed a drop in foot traffic.

The National Transportation Federation confirmed that all of its members from both the West, East and Southwest neighborhoods of Caracas, in addition to the nation's 23 states, will suspend activity during the strike.

"They have not toppled me nor will they topple me", he said.

Instead of holding a plebiscite to ask voters whether they approved of his plan to convoke a Constituent Assembly, as experts generally agree the constitution requires, he went ahead and did it through a presidential decree, with the support of his obedient Supreme Court.

He has called for the arrest of the 13 people named by the opposition to the alternative court last week, calling them "usurpers". Later, when the consequences of such actions appear, they get rid of the law, which is often done by promoting a new one introduced as the ultimate solution to the country's various problems.

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