The Latest: Neighbors ask Venezuela to put off vote

AP News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2017 5:03 PM
The Latest: Neighbors ask Venezuela to put off vote

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

5 p.m.

The Mercosur trade bloc is asking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to suspend his plan to rewrite the troubled nation's constitution.

Leaders of the South American group are meeting Friday in the Argentine city of Mendoza. In a statement, they are also offering to help in any talks between Venezuela's government and the opposition aimed at solving the country's political and economic crisis.

Venezuela's opposition is vowing to intensify near-daily protests against Maduro's plan to go ahead with a July 30 vote on a constituent assembly to retool the constitution. Maduro's socialist supporters want the assembly to grant him more power over the few institutions still outside the control of his ruling party.

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are Mercosur's founding members.

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2:00 p.m.

Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress has appointed a slate of new judges to the Supreme Court, and the government-stacked high court is wasting no time in declaring those nominations null and in violation of the constitution.

Juan Jose Mendoza is head of the constitutional branch of the Supreme Court. He says the 33 judges appointed Friday by the National Assembly are illegally usurping authority by attempting to fulfill the role of the court.

Mendoza called on civil and military authorities to respond with actions that he did not specify.

Opposition lawmakers have been at odds with the Supreme Court since they won a majority in congress in 2015.

They appointed the slate of judges in an escalating fight against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, a move they see as a power grab.

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12:25 p.m.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor says a 15-year-old boy and a 34-year-old man are the latest victims killed during anti-government demonstrations, bringing the number killed during a 24-hour nationwide strike to four.

Authorities say the teenager was killed during a protest Thursday in Zulia while Eury Hurtado was shot four times at a demonstration in Los Teques, a hotspot for opposition protests about 20 miles (30 kilometers) outside Caracas.

The teen's name and cause of death were not released.

Authorities had previously announced the deaths of two other men during the strike.

At least 97 have been killed in more than three months of political upheaval jolting the South American nation. Venezuela is plagued by triple-digit inflation, food and medical shortages and a homicide rate among the highest in the world.