UN urges Venezuela to allow dissent, unofficial referendum

GENEVA - The United Nations called on Venezuela’s government on Friday to let people take part in an unofficial referendum on the constitution and make sure security forces do not use excessive force against protestors.

Opposition groups have called the plebiscite on Sunday, saying Venezuelans should have their say on President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.

“We urge authorities to respect the wishes of those who want to participate in this consultation and to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” UN human rights spokesperson Liz Throssell told a Geneva news briefing.

Applications for asylum by Venezuelan nationals have “soared”, with 52,000 lodged already this year against 27,000 all of 2016, the UN refugee agency said, adding that it represented “only a fraction” of those in need of refuge.

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