Residents and members of the military wait to vote for the elections of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) at a polling station in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 30, 2017. Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Sunday that voting was proceeding smoothly, except for an "isolated incident" in Tachira state that authorities brought under control. (Xinhua/Boris Vergara)
CARACAS, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Sunday that voting was proceeding smoothly, except for an "isolated incident" in Tachira state that authorities brought under control.
He called Sunday's vote "a turning point towards a Venezuela with equality (and) social justice."
From the early morning, Venezuelans turned out in large numbers to vote for a constituent assembly to amend the constitution, said El Aissami.
"The people have turned out en masse to exercise this fundamental human right, this right that shows Venezuelans' civic spirit (and) commitment to building a country in a peaceful and democratic way," El Aissami told reporters, after casting his vote in central Aragua state.
Samuel Moncada, foreign affairs minister, said the participation of Venezuelans on Sunday, in the election of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is a "vote for peace."
After voting, the Venezuelan minister told the press of the importance to seeing the people out voting and rejected the country's critics.
"Opponents, some governments and even the CIA do not recognize this power...because they have a plan to control Venezuela. We do not need them or the vote of opponents," said Moncada.
Moncada highlighted the election for the ANC, which will rewrite the Constitution, as a "declaration of sovereignty," as well as "self-determination, independence, liberty, rebellion and pride."
As the day went on, however, tensions bubbled over into violence and five dead were reported.
In the morning, Ricardo Campos, 30, died in the northeast state of Sucre, the prosecutor-general's office said on Twitter.
An opposition legislator, Deputy Henry Ramos Allup, identified Campos as a youth opposition leader for the conservative Democratic Action (AD) party, and said he died of a gunshot near his home.
Later in the day came the announcement of four more deaths. Two adults, Luis Zambrano, 43, in the central state of Lara, and Ronald Ramirez, an army lieutenant, in the western state of Tachira.
According to the prosecutor-general, Luis Zambrano was shot dead during a protest in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara, while Ramirez was shot in the left lung during an opposition protest at the Jauregui de La Grita military school in Tachira.
In the western state of Tachira, two teenagers, aged 17 and 13, were also killed. The first, Luis Ortiz, was killed in the municipality of Cardenas, when armed groups allegedly fired at the protesters.
The 13-year-old, who was unnamed by authorities, was reported killed in the town of Capacho Viejo.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. for elections to choose the members of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to debate and amend the Constitution, an initiative proposed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro to resolve the political crisis and rejected by the opposition as an attempt to consolidate his power.
Caracas-based news network Telesur posted photos on its website that showed large crowds or long lines at polling stations in different parts of the country.
The coalition of conservative opposition parties, known by its Spanish acronym MUD, contested reports that turnout was robust, posting images of abandoned streets outside what it alleged were polling stations on Sunday.
Despite the opposition calling on its supporters to defy a ban against anti-government demonstrations, there were no reports of major disturbances, according to electoral officials.
While governments such as the U.S., Mexico, Colombia and Panama have said they would not recognize the results of the election, Venezuelan authorities were defiant.
The President of Venezuela's Constituent Commission, Elias Jaua, said that the ANC did not need the recognition of "any government."
After voting around midday, Jaua told the press that "the ANC is a constitutional instrument, no government of the world has the right to recognize or not the will of the Venezuelan people."
He took particular aim at the U.S. and Colombia saying that Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, and Donald Trump, president of the United states, "must respect it, as this people has its own soul and conscience."
"Tomorrow (Monday), we will start the ANC and, through it, the path to recovering the guarantees of peace and dialogue among all Venezuelans....hopefully the opposition understands this," he concluded.