Demonstrators prepare a barricade during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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The United States Wednesday imposed sanctions on 13 current or former senior Venezuelan officials, piling the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to abandon plans for a weekend vote to elect a body to rewrite the constitution.Among those targeted are the head of Venezuela's National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, and former Vice President Elias Jaua, who is leading the presidential commissions organizing Sunday's vote.The assembly could dramatically reshape the government and help Maduro further consolidate his power.The government is deploying 232,000 soldiers to protect Sunday's vote, and National Guard troops were out Wednesday pulling down barriers.The opposition's No. 1 demand is conventional elections, including for the presidency, to remove Maduro.Maduro says the election for the 545-seat assembly, which will have power to rewrite the national constitution and override the current opposition-led legislature, is designed to put power in the hands of ordinary people.
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