VALENCIA, Venezuela (CBSMiami) — Voters lined up around the block in one of the largest cities in Venezuela to cast their ballots in a poll that could mark a turning point for the country.
The vote will allow President Nicolas Maduro to replace the current legislative body, the National Assembly, with a new institution known as the Constituent Assembly, that will have the power to rewrite the constitution.
The proposed Constituent Assembly would be made up of 545 members, all nominated by Maduro’s administration, giving him sweeping powers.
Maduro, who said he was the first voter in today’s election, called casting that vote a symbol of the independence and sovereignty of Venezuela. He boasted that his government is seeing through the vote despite the international pressure, including from President Donald Trump.
“In Venezuela, according to the constitution, the original constituent power is a political right of the people, it is a human right,” Maduro said. “The emperor Donald Trump has tried to prevent the people from carrying out the right to vote. It’s the political right to activate the constituent power, and I said come hell or high water July 30th, what do we want, freedom!”
Protests, which have taken place for the past three months continued Sunday, despite a ban on demonstrations.
In Doral, Florida, about a dozen people got together at N.W. 41st Street and 87th Avenue to speak out against the vote.
“Our democracy is in risk, serious risk,” said Yoiris Duran. “For 18 years, we’ve been suffering from this regime.”
In Pompano Beach, another protest took place off West Palm Aire Drive. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said she’s against what President Maduro is trying to impose with today’s vote.
“This vote today is a sham, it’s a fraud and it should not be recognized by any responsible nation,” she said. “He’s concocted this illegal, unconstitutional constituent assembly made up of 500 people, all of whom agree with him to continue his socialist agenda.”
Despite the violent protests that have claimed 116 lives over the past few months, and the hundreds more who have been injured and imprisoned, Venezuelans still have hope things will get better.
“The days that are coming are very tough,” said Karina Fernandez. “But I trust that Venezuelans are going to defend our country.”