Nationwide strike attempt to stop vote for Constituent Assembly

The main streets of Caracas were quiet Thursday morning as Venezuela’s opposition called for a 24-hour national strike.

Public buses were nearly absent from streets in the capital as thousands of merchants decided to stay closed.

The stoppage was announced Sunday after more than 7 million Venezuelans rejected President Nicolas Maduro’s government in an unofficial plebiscite.

The opposition, which controls the National Assembly, said the massive strike is meant to put pressure on Maduro, who wants to create a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote that would have the power to rewrite the Constitution.

A coalition of opposition parties also said the strike was the launch of a ‘’final offensive” that would intensify next week with more protests.

‘’We invite all Venezuela to a massive protest next Sunday to demand political change,” Freddy Guevara, an opposition coalition leader who called for the strike, said Thursday on Twitter.

But Maduro hit back at Guevara as a “terrorist” and a “stupid boy who has his cell ready” in a speech at a hotel in Caracas.

“The day that someone wants to attack me or democracy, that day, they will truly see what is an absolute, insurrectional total street stoppage. I hope it never happens because I want peace,’’ he added, surrounded by supporters.

On Thursday, Mexico joined the U.S., Brazil, the European Union, the United Nations and the Organization of American States in asking Maduro to cancel elections for the Constituent Assembly.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened “swift economic action’’ against Venezuela if the vote took place.

The opposition has carried out a vigorous campaign in the past few months to try to push Maduro out of office through early elections.

The crisis has fueled public anger and massive protests that have left at least 96 people dead since April.

In turn, Maduro has blamed the right-wing opposition, the U.S. and its regional allies for the country’s current condition.

The socialist president said the election of a Constituent Assembly that could rewrite the Constitution and dissolve state institutions is an “opportunity” for Venezuela to recover economically.

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