Venezuela's nationwide dry run vote is underway Sunday, ahead of the election of representatives to the National Constituent Assembly to be held on July 30, with the National Electoral Council overseeing preparations for the election.
People started lining up throughout the country at 7 a.m., including the Caracas neighborhoods of San Juan, San Pedro and El Recreo to take part in the vote. Norma Azuaje, a political official from San Juan, reported, "this seems like a real election vote."
CNE Vice President Sandra Oblitas said around midday, "There have been no reports of irregularities in the country. What there has been is a large participation by the Venezuelan people."
The electoral official explained that there was one testing site in each of the country's 335 municipalities, where a person would go through the entire voting process and get instruction to make sure that everything is functioning properly.
She reiterated that the dry run vote was a message of democracy for the country, adding that the people of Venezuela want peace.
Tibisay Lucena, head of the CNE said earlier, "We will not allow any violent radicalism to hurt the opportunity to express ourselves as the peaceful and democratic people we are."
There was a reported case of a woman being shot dead near a dry run polling station in the working-class neighborhood of Catia but the circumstances are not clear.
"The Venezuelan people start the constituent assembly dry run."
Thousands of United Socialist Party of Venezuela supporters gathered in Valencia's bull ring in Carabobo state, along with the party's Vice President Diosdado Cabello and Jorge Rodriguez, Commander of the Zamora Constituent Campaign 200.
During his speech to the crowd, Cabello called for the full weight of the law to be imposed on "those who walk burning people" in reference to the victims of violence during the recent opposition protests.
Orgulloso de ver a nuestro Pueblo organizado dispuesto a defender sus ideales y logros en revolución. Chávez vive! pic.twitter.com/JI5NZWb2FN— Francisco Ameliach (@AmeliachPSUV) 15 July 2017
"Proud to see our people organized ready to defend their ideals and achievements in Revolution. Chavez vive!"
He also told the crowd that abstentionism would be avoided "by ensuring that the people exercise their democratic right to vote despite any adverse situation or sabotage of the right to be present."
The call for a National Constituent Assembly was made by President Nicolas Maduro on May 1 to help ease ongoing tensions with the right-wing opposition.
The body that will rewrite the country’s 1999 Constitution will be made up of 545 members, with 364 representing regions and another 181 representing various social sectors — workers, farmers, people with disabilities, students, retirees, the business sector, communes and communal councils.
They will draft a new constitutional text which will be put to a popular vote in Venezuela.
Opposition leaders are calling for people to vote in their own symbolic plebiscite Sunday, which is unconstitutional and which the CNE regards as illegitimate and non-binding.
Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, which is currently in contempt of the law, called for the July 16 ballot to consult Venezuelans on three questions: whether they want a constituent assembly or not; whether they want the armed forces to support the existing constitution and the decisions of the national assembly; and whether they want immediate general elections.
Other opposition leaders have described the plebiscite as an opportunity to prepare the ground for blockading the country.