The Venezuelan government issued a ban on protests from July 28 to August 1, and plans to elect delegates to the Constituent Assembly, which would have power to rewrite the constitution and shut down the opposition-led legislature, on July 31.
Several countries and global organizations, including the USA and European Union, have condemned the vote for Sunday. The neighboring country said it would give 150,000 Venezuelans who had overstayed permission to visit another three months before they had to leave. "For us, it's a recognition of morality, loyalty to the nation, and civic honesty".
About 120 people gathered in the early afternoon in the Caracas neighborhood of Altamira, some of them blocking an intersection in apparent defiance of the protest ban.
But, with the country of 30 million people submerged in a fourth straight year of recession, many employees stick to their posts because of health insurance, subsidized food or lack of other jobs.
Late Thursday the prosecutor's office released a list of 109 dead from violence related to demonstrations and street blockades across the country.
"Maduro's opponents say the assembly's rigged to be pro-government and will rewrite the constitution to make Venezuela an all-out dictatorship", NPR's Philip Reeves reports.
The Constituent Assembly will comprise 545 elected representatives, 364 of whom will come from municipal circumscriptions (one from each, except state capitals which will get two, and Caracas, which will get seven).
Maduro has deployed the military and police to clear blockades and protect a vote he says is meant to end a power struggle with the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which he blames for the spiraling political, economic and social crisis. "I ask you not to be accomplices in the annihilation of the republic".
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was pushing forward Saturday with a controversial weekend vote, despite growing domestic political opposition, global condemnation and deadly street protests.
Venezuela's Supreme Court said on Friday it ordered the arrest of Alfredo Ramos, mayor of Iribarren, part of the city of Barquisimeto in the state if Lara.
On Sunday, Venezuelans are scheduled to cast their vote for more than 500 members of the National Constituent Assembly, which will be in charge of drafting a new constitution and reordering the state without anyone being able to oppose their decisions.
The Trump administration has said it is considering further sanctions, including restrictions on Venezuelan oil imports, a potentially devastating blow to Venezuela's economy. It says it has dispatched more than 370,000 troops across the country to secure Sunday's vote. The U.S. has accused El Aissami of playing a major role in global drug trafficking, a charge he denies.
Simon Zerpa, vice president of finance for PDVSA, is the only current official of the state-owned oil company among 13 Venezuelan nationals who were sanctioned by President Donald Trump Wednesday.
Fears of open civil conflict have prompted an exodus of thousands of Venezuelans into neighbouring Colombia. June saw the last United Airlines departure from Caracas. "What unifies us today in this cause isn't interference in another country's affairs, but support for its people", he said. However, Toronto trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak said the government can change that whenever it wants, without consulting Parliament.