The opposition says Maduro's planned Constituent Assembly is a farce designed purely to keep him in power.

Demonstrators clash with riot security forces at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 26, 2017.
Demonstrators clash with riot security forces at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 26, 2017.

Three people died during clashes on the first day of an opposition-led strike against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, the state prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

At least 106 people have died in total during anti-government unrest convulsing the South American OPEC nation since the opposition launched protests in April, demanding elections to end nearly two decades of socialist rule.

Many streets around Venezuela remained barricaded and deserted during the second day of an opposition-led shutdown, which began on Wednesday. The strike aims to pressure Maduro into cancelling a controversial vote for a new congress at the weekend.

Adversaries say the ruling Socialist Party wants to consolidate dictatorship with a sham vote for the super-congress that will have the power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the existing opposition-led legislature.

Faced also with intense international pressure including the threat of US economic sanctions, Maduro says he is going ahead with Sunday's election for the Constituent Assembly as the only way to empower the people and bring peace to Venezuela.

The Venezuelan prosecutor's office said a 23-year-old man died in western Merida state, while a 16-year-old boy died in the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Petare during clashes between security forces and young masked protestors on Wednesday. That added to the previously announced death of a 30-year-old man, also in mountainous Merida state.

Source: Reuters