Tension continues to mount in Venezuela as the country prepares for a controversial vote that could rewrite its constitution.
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CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolás Maduro pushed ahead Sunday with the controversial vote for a powerful constitutional assembly amid protests that left a dozen people dead, according to opposition officials, who led a massive boycott of the polls.

The beleaguered South American nation is electing members to the new assembly that would rewrite the country’s 1999 constitution and possibly create a single-party, authoritarian system. 

Julio Borges, president of the opposition-led National Assembly, said only 7% of the electorate had voted — a silent protest of Maduro’s power grab, which would slam the brakes on democracy.

A mid-day check of 10 polling places here in the capital showed most of them empty or nearly empty.

“Venezuela has screamed with its silence,” said Borges, who put the day’s death toll at 12. The public prosecutor’s office confirmed nine deaths.

Around 6 p.m., National Electoral Council Vice President Sandra Oblitas extended voting until 7 p.m. amid what she said were reports of difficulties voting in some areas because of people blocking access to polling places.

Maduro’s vision of a new constitution to consolidate his power has drawn ire in Washington. Last week, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials, and the White House and some U.S. lawmakers said stiffer sanctions could follow. Mexico said it would support U.S. sanctions, and the Organization of American States and the European Parliament have also…