Venezuelans stage general strike against Maduro's leadership

El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren defended Maduro at Nicaragua

The Venezuelan government has rejected United States pressure to cancel a Constitutional initiative or face additional "economic sanctions". Much of the other half serves as payment of debt owed to China, so a total cut in exports to the US would slash Venezuelan government income by 75 percent, Angel Alvarado, a member of congress and economist, told The Associated Press.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents face a crucial showdown Thursday as the country's opposition calls the first national strike since 2002 stoppage that failed to topple Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez.

The conservative opposition, which has the backing of the USA, has opposed the initiative and even organised an informal poll on Sunday to gauge support.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that's raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests.

Vice President Tareck El Aissami also denounced Trump's interventionist plans, stating that the civic-military alliance will be activated on July 21 to ensure the safe and free participation of the Venezuelan people during the vote. A majority of people oppose the Constituent Assembly, which critics have said is a sham election skewed to give Maduro a majority.

While that number can not be independently verified, it's roughly equivalent to the number of votes garnered by winning candidates in recent Venezuelan elections, an indication that Venezuelans would vote down the constitutional assembly if asked in an official referendum.

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The U.S. government's "unbelievable" comments on Venezuela "shows its absolute bias towards the violent and extremist sectors of Venezuelan politics, which favor the use of terrorism to overthrow a popular and democratic government", the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry added in a statement.

In response, the opposition called Thursday's general strike.

Maduro's foes are demanding a presidential election and want to stop the leftist leader's plan to create the Constituent Assembly, which would have the power to rewrite the constitution and annul the opposition-led legislature.

"We continue within the framework of democracy, within the framework of peace", Torrealba said. She explained that part of the exercise was to identify those localities within the municipalities where the safety of voters could be threatened during the electoral event. "We won't allow it, and we'll be watching closely", he warned. "Today a new machine has been born, one that will push forward a new history, a new dawn". But the vote wasn't sanctioned by the country's National Electoral Council (CNE), which has shut down every opposition-led project and even nullified electoral wins over the last few years. In cities like Barcelona and NY, turnout roughly tripled that of 2013 figures.

The results showed almost 98% of voters said they were against the move to re-write the country's constitution.

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