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The opposition is calling for a boycott of Sunday's vote after having organized a symbolic referendum on July 16 that saw more than seven million people reject Maduro's attempt to change the country's constitution.

The protests began over moves by President Nicolas Maduro's government to restrict the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The United States made a decision to target individuals for alleged human rights abuses, undermining democracy and corruption, while sparing the country for now from broader financial or "sectoral" sanctions against its vital oil industry - though such actions, the officials told Reuters, are still under consideration.

"On July 30, the constituent (assembly) will go ahead with the vote of the people", he said in a televised broadcast.

The worldwide community has broadly condemned the vote, and the United States on Wednesday announced sanctions against 13 current and former officials for corruption, undermining democracy, and participating in repression.

An average of 78 people a day died violently past year in this country of 31.5 million, according the non-governmental Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

Venezuela's currency reserves have dwindled to under Dollars 10 billion as the government keeps up debt repayments at the expense of imports to stave off a crippling default.

"Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential US sanctions", he said.

Maduro over the weekend said the government had held talks with the opposition and that postponing the vote had been on the table but that the opposition did not follow through.

"Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are?" The existing Supreme Court has consistently backed Maduro and shot down all measures by the opposition-led National Assembly.

"What the United States is doing is bringing to light corruption in the Venezuelan government", opposition lawmaker Franklin Duarte told Reuters.

A new U.S. sanctions announcement has coincided with a two-day strike and a major protest in Venezuela, Deutsche Welle reports.

Protests during the stoppage have left three people dead - two men, aged 30 and 23, in the western province of Merida, and a 14-year-old boy in an eastern Caracas slum, according to prosecutors.

The oil export-dependent economy will shrink 12 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund predicts.

Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest Maduro, who has about a 20 percent approval rating. It has planned another major demonstration in Caracas on Friday.

And with widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation, more and more locals are either joining the strikes or crossing the border into Colombia this week, fleeing the unrest.

Venezuela's military has declared loyalty to Maduro but prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez directly urged it to withdraw its support from Maduro's plan for a Constituent Assembly, which he called a "constitutional fraud" aimed at eliminating democratic rule.


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