Venezuela crisis enters pivotal week, Maduro foes protest
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition planned to plaster election centers with banners and rally in honor of dead protesters on Monday in a final week-long push to force President Nicolas Maduro into aborting a controversial congress.
The unpopular leftist leader is pressing ahead with the planned vote for a Constitutional Assembly next Sunday despite the opposition of most Venezuelans, a crescendo of international criticism, and some dissent within his ruling Socialist Party.
Critics say the assembly, whose election rules appear designed to ensure a majority for Maduro, is intended to institutionalize dictatorship in the South American OPEC nation.
But Maduro, 54, whose term runs until early 2019, insists it is the only way to empower the people and bring peace after four months of anti-government unrest that has killed more than 100 people and further pummeled an imploding economy.
"This is a crucial week for the future of our country. Democracy, liberty and peace depend on us," said lawmaker and protest leader Juan Andres Mejia, urging people onto the streets.