Venezuela has been under a state of emergency since April
The election of a new legislative superbody in Venezuela – which would have sweeping powers to rewrite the constitution – is going ahead despite warnings from Washington, Brazil and Spain that it will pave the way for military action.
Elections are being held for a new super-body which would remove the main powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly in the oil-rich South American country.
However, political violence is mounting and hundreds of voters have already been wounded in clashes with security forces.
The vote has heightened fears that Venezuela is on the brink of civil war.
Meanwhile, Socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is continuing its crackdown on the political opposition.
The opposition says it will boycott the vote, amid fears that its likely election would allow President Maduro to pass new laws curbing political freedoms.
And, just hours before voting began, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told the BBC that Venezuela’s offer to discuss a new constitution was “dead”, despite its main opposition leaders rejecting a unilateral offer of talks two weeks ago.
Delcy Rodriguez spoke after she met European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
It is hard to know exactly how much power this new legislative body will actually have.
That’s because, just like the current opposition-controlled congress, the proposed 100-seat body will consist of just 50 representatives elected in December’s legislative elections and an equal number of Venezuelans – mostly military officers – chosen by the Supreme Court.