Venezuela’s government, opposition on deadly collision course

CARACAS jul 28: Venezuela’s political crisis looks headed for a dangerous showdown on Friday, after the opposition called for a nationwide protest against President Nicolas Maduro in outright defiance of a government ban on demonstrations ahead of a controversial weekend vote.

The war of words escalated on Thursday, the second day of a 48-hour general strike by Venezuelans angry over Maduro’s plans for a Sunday vote to elect a new body to rewrite the constitution.

“The regime declared we can’t demonstrate… We will respond with the TAKING OF VENEZUELA” through a protest on Friday, the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, said on its Twitter account.

Maduro countered by urging the opposition to “abandon the road to insurrection.”

He called for immediate dialogue — but signaled he was not backing down. Any talks, he said, should happen “before the election and installation of the Constituent Assembly” tasked with rewriting the constitution.

Earlier, he issued a decree warning anybody taking part in protests that “could disturb or affect” Sunday’s vote risked five to 10 years in prison.

Four months of violent protests have already left 108 people dead, according to prosecutors. Five of them — including two minors — died in protests during the two-day strike.

Demonstrations have intensified in recent days as the opposition seeks to thwart Maduro’s plans and oust him through early elections.

Fears of open civil conflict have prompted an exodus of thousands of Venezuelans into neighboring Colombia.