Woman shot dead in Venezuela voting queue, as opposition hails ‘plebiscite’ as blow against Maduro

A 61-year-old nurse was shot dead in an attack on a Caracas polling station on Sunday, as voters queued for an unofficial referendum hailed by Venezuela’s opposition as a major strike against embattled president Nicolas Maduro.

The woman, Xiomara Escot, was killed when a pro-government armed group opened fire at the El Carmen Church polling station in Catia, an impoverished neighbourhood of the capital that was once a stronghold of the Chavista government. 

There, as across Venezuela, voters overwhelmingly backed proposals to halt Mr Maduro’s formation of a people’s assembly, to hold fresh elections and demand the armed forces uphold the decisions of the opposition-controlled parliament.

Ninety-eight percent voted in favour across all three questions, with more than seven million people casting ballots inside Venezuela and abroad. However the vote, dismissed by Mr Maduro as illegal, was largely boycotted by government supporters.

Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, nevertheless hailed it as a mandate for change.

“The people came out on a massive scale to give us a mandate that we are going to fulfill and ensure is fulfilled. It is up to us to make the government understand the message of today,” he said.  

Forensic technicians stand at a crime scene where gunmen apparently shot at several people during an opposition-organised unofficial plebiscite against President Nicolas Maduro’s government and his plan to rewrite the constitution, in Caracas, Venezuela July 16 Credit: REUTERS

Mr Borges condemned the attack in Catia, demanding an end to the violence which has claimed more than 90 lives since anti-government protests began in April. 

Images posted on social media, purportedly from the scene, showed armed men in black descending on motorcycles and raising handguns; three people were also injured.

Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader, laid blame for the attack directly on Mr Maduro, who has been widely criticised by human rights…

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