Venezuela opposition calls for national strike; Trump threatens sanctions if Maduro creates Constituent Assembly

Venezuela's opposition called on Monday for a national shutdown against President Nicolas Maduro in a major escalation of protests against a leftist government it accuses of flouting the people's will.

"We are not going to allow the destruction of Venezuela. The whole country overwhelmingly rejects the Maduro regime," said opposition leader Freddy Guevara, announcing the first 24-hour strike in nearly four months of anti-government demonstrations that have led to some 100 deaths as a result of repression by state security forces. 

The opposition - which wants restaurants, shops and transport to come to a standstill on Thursday - said it would also take steps to set up a "national unity" government and name new alternative judges to the pro-Maduro Supreme Court. That raised the possibility of a parallel state structure to challenge government-controlled institutions. 

The opposition said it brought 7.6 million people out on Sunday for an unofficial vote intended to de-legitimize Maduro, who they call a dictator. The president’s opponents are demanding elections and want to stop his plan to create a controversial new legislative super-body called a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote. 

Guevara said the opposition would only talk with the government if the constituent plan was withdrawn. 

In other news, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to take "strong and swift economic actions" if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro goes ahead with plans to create his Constituent Assembly. 

"Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. 

"The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions," Trump said.