VENEZUELANS said “enough violence” by turning out for Sunday’s constituent assembly election rehearsal, President Nicolas Maduro said.
National Electoral Council (CNE) vice-president Sandra Oblitas reported “the highest participation” in the practice run for July 30’s election with 1,943 voting machines running.
Mr Maduro called the national constituent assembly to chart a way out of the country’s economic and political crisis, which has left at least 93 people dead in three months.
On Sunday he said: “The voters came out like a river swollen with passion, with love.”
Mr Maduro appealed to the nation to give peace a chance by backing the constituent assembly.
“I ask them to give an opportunity to the only path we have to peace, to consolidate the social model, to right the economy within a socialist productive economic model.
“We are doing everything for peace so that the violent sectors stay isolated,” he added.
And Mr Maduro repeated the offer of peace talks to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition.
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged a “national agreement” between the Mud and Mr Maduro’s United Socialist Party.
And Spain’s Efe news agency quoted an unnamed participant at yesterday’s EU foreign ministers meeting ruling out sanctions or condemnation.
“Taking restrictive measures against one actor or the other in Venezuela probably would not help to recover the dialogue,” they said.
The Mud said some 7.1 million people voted in its own referendum — unauthorised by the CNE — on Sunday.
One woman was killed and four people injured in the capital Caracas’s northwestern Sucre municipality when armed men on motorcycles opened fire on voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church at about 3pm.
Sucre’s Mud Mayor Carlos Ocariz blamed “collectives” — armed government supporters — for the attack.
The Mud, which controls the parliament, has refused to stand candidates for the constituent assembly, saying it legitimises the elected government and that its real aim is to move to a Cuban-style no-party democracy.
Citizens were asked to vote Yes or No to three questions: whether they reject the constituent assembly, whether they want the armed forces to back the parliament — apparently calling for a military coup — and whether they support a national unity government.
On Thursday Mud spokesman Stalin Gonzalez admitted the coalition had no way of ensuring ballot fraud did not take place, saying the Mud could only trust citizens not to vote multiple times.