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Voters across the seven different voting locations in South Florida are hoping the turnout sends a message to the Venezuelan government to listen to the people and end the violent clashes that have claimed dozens of lives.

98 percent of the 7.2 million Venezuelans from around the world who voted in the non-binding referendum rejected dictator Nicolás Maduro's plan to create a 'constituent assembly, ' which critics fear will further cement the government's authoritarian grip on power. The country's chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says the USA congratulates the Venezuelan people "for the huge turnout in the referendum" sponsored by the opposition to reject President Nicolas Maduro's planned constitutional revamp.

At the beginning of June, Pope Francis said: "my voice resonates in that of the Venezuelan bishops".

For many ordinary Venezuelans suffering under shortages of basic goods, sky-high inflation, and climbing unemployment, the vote was a way of expressing frustration at the president and his policies. As expected, Maduro ridiculed the symbolic opposition referendum.

"There are so many unhappy people in Venezuela and they are fleeing due to the insecurity and the lack of food", added Jesus Rincon, who hails from Valencia and has only been living in Tampa for the past four months.

The statement came after his spokesman, Sean Spicer, had already called on Maduro a few hours earlier to cancel the constituent assembly process. But Maduro is thumbing his nose at that step. We're staring at civil war.

Senior White House officials told Reuters last month the Trump administration was considering sanctions on Venezuela's vital energy sector, including state oil company PDVSA, a major escalation in U.S. efforts to pressure the country's government amid a crackdown on the opposition. "I'm just fighting for it".

The incident forced hundreds to seek refuge inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church where they stayed until the local archbishop Cardinal Jorje Urosa Savino mediated their safe exit. "What else can be done to show there's no way this situation in Venezuela can be sustainable anymore?" "Nothing is going stop this", he said. In fact, the constituyente will likely abolish that legislature.

The National Assembly - also controlled by the opposition - says it will name new members of the country's supreme court, a move certain to be blocked by Maduro's administration.

"We don't want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us", Borges said.

"I have no doubt Venezuela could go up in flames", says Mena. The legislative body would have the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions.

Trump called for "free and fair elections" and said his nation "stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy".

The prospect of worse bloodshed may well move the worldwide community to lean harder on Maduro.

The government of Nicolas Maduro is the leading political and economic ally of the Cuban government of Raul Castro.


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