The Venezuelan government banned nationwide protests on Thursday, just days before a referendum to elect a constituent assembly capable of rewriting the nation’s constitution. The ban, which begins Friday and lasts through Tuesday, was announced toward the end of a 48-hour strike conducted by the nation’s opposition members, who are rallying against the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. On Thursday, the nation’s interior minister, Nestor Reverol, expressly prohibited “all public meetings and demonstrations, gatherings, and other similar acts that might disturb the electoral process” on Sunday. Those who defy the ban face a jail sentence of five to ten years.
Despite these new regulations, opposition leaders have said a large anti-government protest will take place Friday, as planned, in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and continue through Sunday. “We will not kneel. We will not fail. We will fight,” Freddy Guevara, the vice president of Venezuela’s democratically-elected National Assembly, told reporters. Since April, anti-government protests in Venezuela have resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and police forces. The state prosecutor’s office, which opposes Maduro, has charged security forces with numerous human rights violations, including the use of torture and excessive force.