Venezuela will vote Sunday to elect a new ruling assembly

At one protest site, paramedic Johann Paredes, 27, helped both injured protesters and national guard troops Friday.

"Nobody wants to be the guy that raises gas prices, that's not good for elected people", says Russ Dallen, managing partner of Caracas Capital, a US investing firm that doesn't own Venezuelan debt. "Honestly, I'm terrified that (it) is going" forward.

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.

Opposition parties have said the vote on the Constituent Assembly is a "fraud" to establish a "dictatorship" and planned massive marches in Caracas for Friday.

Opposition leaders have said they are willing to talk only if Sunday's vote is postponed.

Worldwide pressure to cancel the vote intensified Friday, with Vice President Mike Pence reiterating in a telephone call with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez that the United States would respond with "strong and swift economic actions" if the election proceeds.

Three Florida congressmen banded together Friday to blast the Maduro regime, promising more sanctions against the South American country if the government proceeds with a plan to create a new constitution and promote a dictatorship.

"The vote is yet another polarizing factor that will make it more hard to achieve some form of reconciliation", Main said. The remaining members will be elected by people from certain social and industry groups (like students, pensioners or workers). While Ms. Polga said she was grateful to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for her statement welcoming the USA sanctions this week, she said the government must "take action".

The United States and other worldwide powers have urged Maduro to drop his plan and respect the electoral calendar.

Venezuela's constitution was written during a previous national constituent assembly in 1999 under then-President Chavez.

The turnout represented about 37% of Venezuela's total electorate.

Venezuelans are forced to carry huge bundles of cash to make basic purchases - if they can afford to do so given weekly price rises on many goods.

Meanwhile, Washington placed 13 Venezuelan government officials on the Treasury Department's sanctions list for "undermining democracy" on Wednesday.

The military, they said, "is constitutionally called to defend the lives of all citizens, without any distinction of class or political affiliation. That is why it is fundamental to go out and vote for the Constituent Assembly, which will foster reunification, reconciliation and dialogue with all people", said the Venezuelan Head of State, adding that we are in "the time of dream and hope".

The assembly has a "fake origin and therefore, the results will not be recognized", Santos said in Barranquilla.

BOGOTA, Colombia -Venezuelans Sunday will elect the members of a new body that the government says will restore peace to the nation and critics claim will mean the end of democracy.

The relationship between the neighbors has been strained for years.

For months, violence has spiraled out of control as the struggle for food and medicine grows.

Mr. Maduro has vowed to resolve the political and economic crisis through a revised constitution, but the opposition has refused to participate, arguing that it will only give the President more power.

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

  • Rogelio Becker