Relatives of US Embassy staff ordered to leave Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for a vote on Sunday that Trump and many other critics say will transform the South American government into dictatorship. It is also calling for more protests over the weekend to disrupt the vote, even as the government has said it will crack down on what it considers to be illegal demonstrations.

Maduro on Thursday warned that anyone taking part in protests against his "Constituent Assembly" risked up to 10 years in prison. The U.S. also joined with a dozen other regional governments in urging Maduro to suspend Sunday's election of a national assembly for rewriting the charter. Highways were mostly empty and businesses shuttered across the country as millions of people observed the 48-hour strike and activists threw up roadblocks in many neighborhoods to keep others from getting to work.

In recent years Colombia has received hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants, many of them with Colombian origins, fleeing the shortages, triple-digit inflation and a homicide rate that is among the world's highest.

Venezuelan leaders, in turn, have accused Rubio and the Central Intelligence Agency of trying to topple Venezuela's government to put their own leaders with USA interests in charge of the country.

The opposition is boycotting because, it says, the vote called by Maduro was structured to ensure that his ruling socialist party dominates.

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Venezuela is undergoing a major economic crisis, with millions suffering food shortages, monthly wages worth only the tens of US dollars, and soaring inflation - though no official data is available. He didn't say whether the USA would sanction Venezuelan oil imports, a measure with the potential to undermine Maduro but cause an even deeper humanitarian crisis here. Professor Margarita Lopez Maya of the Catholic University in Caracas says it's easy to see what Maduro and his officials are doing.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters at a rally in Caracas. Maduro attempted to strip the opposition-dominated Congress of its powers. Any talks, he said, should happen "before the election and installation of the Constituent Assembly". "The president convened a constituent assembly and then set the rules of the game", Orlando Molina, president of the Latin American Institute for Strategic Studies and a member of the opposition, told ABC News from Caracas.

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

"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.

Protests have been constant since the Supreme Court in late March transferred legislative powers from the National Assembly to Maduro.

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Protests during the stoppage have left three people dead - two men, aged 30 and 23, in the western province of Merida, and a 14-year-old boy in an eastern Caracas slum, according to prosecutors.

A coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties proposed but then appeared to back away from its call to form an alternative "government of national unity".

Colombia is pushing for a "peaceful solution, hopefully a fast and democratic one, so that the nation that we love - and I want to once again express my solidarity with the people of Venezuela - will soon come out from the darkness", Santos said.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12% this year, after a contraction of 18% last year, according to the latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund. Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society in Washington, said the vote will be the end of democracy in Venezuela.

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