Secretary of State

US orders diplomats' relatives to leave Venezuela ahead of controversial vote

The State Department Thursday ordered relatives of American diplomats to leave Venezuela ahead of an election that could end in the rewriting of that country's constitution.

The department said it was also allowing U.S. government workers to depart the embassy in Caracas and limiting the movement of those who stay. An updated travel warning also urges American citizens not to travel to Venezuela due to social unrest and violence.

The ordered departure comes three days before President Nicolas Maduro's government plans to hold a vote for an assembly tasked with overhauling the country's charter. Maduro's opposition says the election rules are rigged to strengthen his hold on power.

The U.S. has been urging Maduro to cancel the vote and threatened more sanctions if occurs.

More than 100 people have died over four months of anti-government protests that began when Venezuela's Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its remaining powers.

The official death count by the county's chief prosecutor has been highly politicized, with the opposition and other government agencies reporting varying tolls and causes of death that focus blame on the other side.

The oil-rich South American country, which Thursday was in the second day of a two-day general strike that shuttered businesses nationwide, has also seen thousands of injuries and arrests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.