An opposition candidate in the controversial Venezuelan election has reportedly been shot dead after assailants broke into his home overnight.
Jose Felix Pineda, a 39-year-old lawyer on a ticket to become part of a Constituent Assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution, was killed in the middle of the night in his home in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar.
The tragic death comes as dozens of Venezuelans gather early at voting centres in Caracas, saying they plan to cast ballots because they hope their lives will improve.
Luisa Marquez, a hairdresser, told reporters she hoped to get a house as she waited with her daughter in a queue to vote for an all-powerful constitutional assembly that opponents of the current president, Nicolas Maduro, fear he’ll use to replace Venezuela’s democracy with a single-party authoritarian system.
‘I hope things get better,’ Marquez said, acknowledging that times had been tough in the country under the ruling Socialist Party government.
The run-up to the vote has been marked by months of violent clashes between protesters and the government.
Donald Trump has imposed successive rounds of sanctions on high-ranking members of Maduro’s administration, with the support of countries including Mexico, Colombia and Panama.
Maduro, meanwhile, called for global acceptance as he cast an unusual pre-dawn vote for his deeply unpopular ruling party.
Accompanied by state media and close advisors, Maduro voted at 6.05am local time – far earlier and less publicly than in previous elections.
As well as Pineda, a 61-year-old nurse lost his life after being shot near a church just a few hundred feet from the centre where Maduro voted.
The nurse was shot by men accused of being pro-government paramilitaries during a protest earlier this month.
Maduro said: ‘We’ve stoically withstood the terrorist, criminal violence. Hopefully the world will respectfully extend its arms towards our country.’