US Lawmakers Expect More Sanctions on Venezuela Over Vote

5 Killed in Violence during Venezuelan Opposition's General Strike against Maduro Regime

Maduro's regime has forbidden protests through Tuesday, saying violators will face prison terms of five to 10 years.

Maduro says the 545-seat Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to dissolve all other state institutions, will overcome the "armed insurrection" to bring peace to Venezuela. At least 100 people have been killed.

"The dire economic crisis that Venezuela is facing - with rampant shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods - is a major factor contributing to the country's current political instability", Alexander Main, a senior associate for global policy at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, told ABC News via email.

"Venezuela has been systematically attacked by the USA empire in its attempt to show a state of ungovernability and crisis in the country", Moncada said.

The United Nations asked the government of President Nicolas Maduro to allow citizens to protest peacefully.

Critics say the body is a step towards a dictatorship, by bypassing or dissolving the opposition-held National Assembly.

"It's normal that there's fear, but people are still coming out into the streets despite it all", a lawmaker in the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, said at one of the Caracas protests.

As well as ordering relatives to leave, the U.S. State Department on Thursday also authorized the voluntary departure of any U.S. government employee at its compound-like hilltop embassy in Caracas.

Earlier this week the United States sanctioned 13 current or former senior officials in Venezuela, who are suspected of human rights abuses, suppressing democracy and corruption.

Amid a steep recession and triple-digit inflation, the bolivar currency weakened past 10,000 bolivars per U.S. dollar on the black market on Friday, having fallen more than 99 percent since Maduro came to power in April 2013.

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Some 70% of Venezuelans are opposed to Maduro's plan for a Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis. Highways were mostly empty, and businesses shuttered across the country as millions of people observed the protest.

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The extensions "should be understood by migrants as Colombia's vote of confidence in them", Christian Kruger, the head of Colombia's migration authority said in the statement. On Friday, the MUD announced that they would hold the Taking of Caracas, a giant protest in the capital with analogs throughout the country meant to show the number of people against Maduro.

The state prosecutor's office said late on Friday 18-year-old Gustavo Villamizar had become the latest victim of protest violence.

The US placed several sanctions on senior Venezuelan officials that the USA says are undermining democracy, along with five others implicated in violence or repression, amid the country's political crisis.

"The Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law", President Trump said last week.

Opposition leaders urged Venezuelans to demonstrate anyway in an event they billed as the "taking of Caracas".

Opposition leaders have called for protesters to gather Sunday at a freeway in Caracas and main streets throughout the country.

"We continue to implement security measures to guarantee Venezuelans the extra security we are accustomed to", Lucena said in an interview.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is paying homage to the late Hugo Chavez on what would have been his predecessor's 63rd birthday.

"This protest has been urgent from the beginning, but these two days before the election will be decisive".

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