Clashes in Venezuela ahead of Sunday’s election

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Rock-throwing Venezuelans braved tear gas and rainstorms on Friday, blocking streets in protest against a legislative superbody to be elected on Sunday that critics call an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to create a dictatorship.

The election of a constituent assembly has been broadly condemned by countries around the world as a weakening of democracy in a country whose economy has been crippled by recession despite its vast oil resources.

Opposition demonstrators said urgency was increasing as they set up barricades along main roads in the capital, Caracas, pelted by sheets of rain and teargas canisters fired by police.

“If this election happens on Sunday, we lose everything. We lose Venezuela,” said a 23-year-old-woman who identified herself as a student, face covered against the gas, declining to give her name.

Confrontations with security forces, which have left more than 110 dead over the last four months, were modest on Friday as protesters and police were doused by tropical downpours.

The government banned protests from Friday to Tuesday but opposition figure Henrique Capriles called on followers to block streets again on Saturday and to hold protests along the country’s main roads on Sunday.

Venezuelans have been protesting against Maduro to demand he respect the opposition-led Congress and resolve chronic food and medicine shortages that have fueled malnutrition and health problems. (Reuters)

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