“This fight was born on the street and today it continues and will continue to be waged on the streets until we restore democracy and liberty,” Leopoldo López, an opposition leader released from prison and placed under house arrest last weekend, said on Twitter. “Today millions decide and establish a mandate. No one should doubt that it is binding and that we must defend it and ensure it is heeded.”
Voters were asked whether they rejected the effort to hold a constituent assembly that has not been approved by voters; whether they wanted the country’s armed forces to uphold the current Constitution and the decisions of the opposition-run National Assembly; and whether they wanted free elections to pick a new “national unity government.”
The Venezuelan Constitution passed under Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, in 1999 includes a provision authorizing popular consultations as a means of safeguarding “people’s exercise of their sovereignty.” Venezuela’s election commission did not play a role in Sunday’s vote, which was run by volunteers. The opposition, citing the Constitution, says the vote is binding, but the government dismisses it as illegitimate.
While Mr. Maduro is widely expected to ignore the outcome, organizers hope that it invigorates a protest movement that has gained momentum over the past couple of months. Tensions have soared across Venezuela amid widespread food and medicine shortages and spiraling inflation that the government routinely plays down.
For ordinary Venezuelans, Sunday’s vote was the first opportunity to cast ballots since the 2015 legislative election that ended the United Socialist Party’s dominance of the National Assembly. The government has…