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Colombia 'will not recognise' Venezuela's assembly vote

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5 Killed in Violence during Venezuelan Opposition's General Strike against Maduro Regime

Opposition activists, who launched a two-day nationwide strike Wednesday morning, have proved to be just as obstinate - responding to the protest ban by vowing that a huge anti-government demonstration will proceed as planned Friday.

The death toll in the violent Venezuelan protests against the government's call to rewrite the Constitution has increased to 107, officials confirmed.

Venezuelans have been observing a 48-hour general strike form Wednesday deploring the possibility that their President could gain more sweeping powers.

Thousands of Venezuelans loaded with heavy bags have crossed the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

Its oil exports to the US totaled $10.2 billion in the year ending in May, according to Panjiva, a global trade research firm.

NAN reports that 100 people have died in anti-government unrest convulsing Venezuela since April, when the opposition launched protests demanding conventional elections to end almost two decades of socialist rule.

But Maduro repeated "there was no going back" during a public ceremony where he said the process will be "a great space for dialogue" that will serve to build a "new productive economy". The vote comes after months of economic crisis, political instability, mass protests, sanctions from the USA and violence.

"What's at stake is nothing less than the loss of freedom of Venezuela and the initiation of the Cuban model in a false, illegal, constitutional way", Diego Arria, a former governor of Caracas and an opposition leader living in the USA, told ABC News.

"The usual suspects came out to say Maduro had become insane".

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A lot of work remains ahead of us. "We will meet in this same room in a year and in two years and we will see what happened". Let trade do its job. "You construct and harvest the products that fill our homes, defend our nation and enrich our lives".

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While emphasizing that the constituent assembly was "not convoked by the people", the Venezuelan bishops urged government and opposition supporters to resist resorting to violence. Opponents see the Constituent Assembly as a step toward dictatorship by the party of President Nicolas Maduro. The opposition claimed Maduro was creating a dictatorship as impeachment attempts were blocked by the Court.

"We have to do everything possible to halt the constitutional assembly", said Maria Medina, an office administrator who was waiting in line at a state-run bank that opened.

"Tomorrow, every Venezuelan should prepare for the intense agenda coming [the government's] way", Guevara said Thursday.

The Constituent Assembly will comprise 545 elected representatives, 364 of whom will come from municipal circumscriptions (one from each, except state capitals which will get two, and Caracas, which will get seven).

An overwhelming majority of those who voted in the Venezuelam opposition's recent unofficial referendum rejected Maduro's plan to change the constitution and supplant the opposition-leaning Parliament with a "Constituent Assembly".

This weekend, Venezuela will hold a highly contentious election.

By late afternoon, clashes between police and protesters erupted at some roadblocks in Caracas, and the chief prosecutor's office reported at least one person killed. "If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions".

Global concern has mounted, with the United States, European Union, United Nations and most heavyweight Latin American nations urging Maduro to back down from his plan to hold a vote.

The Democratic Unity coalition of opposition parties called on protesters to occupy several main streets on Sunday to obstruct the vote, despite the government's warning of harsh penalties. Inflation is expected to jump 720 percent and unemployment to reach 28 percent this year, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund.

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