World Bulletin / News Desk
Hundreds of voters were waiting to cast ballots in an unofficial referendum organized by the opposition in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, when men on motorcycles opened fire.
The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said the gunmen were members of a pro-government “paramilitary” gang.
Video shows a series of detonations caused panic in the crowd that scattered. Many sought shelter inside a nearby church when Xiomara Escot, 61, was shot and killed. She was identified by the prosecutor's office.
Voters are to decide whether they want to reject the election of a new National Constituent Assembly (ANC) supported by embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
The election scheduled for July 30 could grant lawmakers power to rewrite the Constitution and dissolve state institutions.
Voters were also asked if they wanted new elections before Maduro’s term ends in 2018.
According to opposition leader Henrique Capriles, millions of people have already voted in more than 559 cities in 101 countries -- allowing expats to participate in the unofficial referendum.
“Venezuelans are giving today an example to the world that we are a people that love democracy,” Capriles told reporters after casting his vote in Caracas. “Every Venezuelan who has voted today came with the firm conviction that this country can find a solution,”
The opposition promised results by late Sunday evening.
The Maduro administration conducted a test vote Sunday on the Constituent Assembly.
In a telephone call to state television, the president urged the opposition to “calm down”.
"Compatriots, let's give peace a chance, let's give the Constituent an opportunity,” he said, “I ask Venezuela an opportunity to recover it economically.”
The South American nation has grappled with deadly political and economic crises as a period of sustained low crude oil prices has forced the government to cut back or eliminate its socialist program.
The opposition has blamed the Maduro government for the situation, alleging corruption by state officials but the president has implicated the U.S. and its regional allies for the cause country’s current situation.
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