CARACAS/WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela is undergoing a political crisis resulting from a months-long standoff between the government and the opposition, while the United States has threatened to take "economic actions" against the Venezuelan government.
OPPOSITION'S SCALING-UP OF PRESSURE
Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) announced on Monday that it was the "zero hour" for the government of President Nicolas Maduro, as National Assembly President Julio Borges spoke of a "scaling-up of pressure."
Borges was speaking one day after the MUD held an unofficial referendum to protest Maduro's bid to rewrite the constitution through the creation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which will be elected on July 30.
"In this phase there come the pressure, the escalation, the materialization of the reasons for which people voted ... yesterday. The world and the government must listen to a cry from an entire country," said Borges.
According to data from the MUD, 7.1 million people voted against the ANC on Sunday.
The referendum asked the Venezuelan people three questions: Whether they support or not Maduro's call for the ANC? Whether they support the constitution of 1999 which Maduro is seeking to change? Whether officials in public office should be replaced?
"If he (Maduro) tried to go against the referendum yesterday, he would be the one leading to more conflict and violence," claimed Borges.
However, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) dismissed the results and accused the MUD of vote tampering.
During a press conference, Jorge Rodriguez, former vice president and current mayor of Caracas, denied that the MUD had received the votes it claimed.
Rodriguez called the referendum a "gigantic fraud" which sought to "renew violence" in the country.
He said the Venezuelan opposition obtained only 2,395,390 favorable votes, but multiplied this by three, leading to their announced result of 7,186,170 votes.
Rodriguez accused the MUD of trying to perpetrate "a huge fraud against the Venezuelan people" by inflating the numbers.
"There was a gigantic scam on all the people of Venezuela," he said. "Over 5 million votes are missing to complete these false numbers ... We have proof of this."
Also on Sunday, the government held a simulation of the July 30 vote for the ANC, which the executive hopes can end the country's political crisis.
U.S. THREATENING OF STRONG ECONOMIC ACTIONS
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to "take strong and swift economic actions" against the Venezuelan government, which it considers to be unruly to the United States, if Venezuela goes ahead to pursue the creation of the ANC.
According to a strongly worded statement released by the White House, Trump warned that if Maduro "imposes" the ANC on July 30, the United States will "take strong and swift economic actions."
Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect the 545 members of the ANC on July 30.
The tensions in the South American country have been high and anti-government protests organized by the opposition MUD have led to more than 90 deaths since early April.
The MUD sees the establishment of the ANC, which will rewrite the constitution, as a power grab by Maduro.
Venezuela saw both of its feuding political factions prepare polls on Sunday, with the government holding a simulation of the July 30 vote to elect the ANC and the opposition organizing an unofficial referendum of its own to gauge public support for or rejection of the ANC.
According to Borges, more than 7.2 million people took part in the vote held by the opposition.
In addition to trying to win support of the public, the opposition MUD received some kind of international support as five former Latin American leaders came to observe the referendum and expressed their backing for the efforts.
Vicente Fox from Mexico, Laura Chinchilla and Miguel Angel Rodriguez from Costa Rica, Andres Pastrana from Colombia and Jorge Quiroga from Bolivia were all on hand but Caracas' reaction to their presence was scathing.
On Monday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada stated that Fox would no longer be welcome in Venezuela.
Speaking to Venezolana de Television, Moncada said that Fox "was paid to come to Venezuela to promote violence and the intervention of foreign powers."
Media reports also lambasted the five leaders, for having entered the country without any constitutional role and without the permission of the Electoral National Council.