Many roads were deserted and businesses closed in Venezuela on Thursday as members of the nation’s opposition party held a 24-hour strike to protest the regime of President Nicolas Maduro. The protest marked Venezuela’s first major national strike since 2002, when a countrywide shutdown attempted to overturn the regime of former president Hugo Chavez. Millions participated on Thursday by boycotting Venezuela’s public transportation, staying home from work, shutting down private businesses, and ensuring that streets were blocked off. Opposition leaders claim that 85 percent of Venezuela’s workers were involved in the strike. Even western Caracas—home to many government loyalists—experienced about half the foot traffic of a normal weekday, the Associated Press reports.
The strike comes just days after 7.5 million Venezuelans participated a symbolic referendum vote to reject Maduro’s plan to rewrite the nation’s constitution. On July 30, the president intends to hold a special election to select members of a “constituent assembly,” which will be capable of dissolving public powers and convening general elections. Many view the decision as a ploy for Maduro to overtake the nation’s democratic institutions and retain control of Venezuela following the end of his term in 2019. Even with the majority of Venezuelans—and many foreign nations—opposed to the special election, Maduro said he plans to move forward with the vote.