President Nicolas Maduro was among the first to cast a vote in the so-called constituent assembly, ignoring global condemnation, a boycott by the opposition, and the threat of severe sanctions by the U.S. Maduro, 54, has been derided for the plan to bypass congress as a means for an indefinite power grab.
In opposition-dominated eastern Caracas, riot police used tear gas to stop protesters from gathering for a march on the capital's main highway.
"This is for elections, for the freeing of political prisoners, for change", said Opposition Congressman Freddy Guevera.
Critics say the assembly will allow Maduro to dissolve the opposition-run Congress, delay future elections and rewrite electoral rules to prevent the socialists from being voted out of power in the once-prosperous South American nation. But opposition organisations to the ruling socialist party are boycotting the crucial vote, claiming that it will be rigged in Maduro's favour.
As well as Pineda, a 61-year-old nurse lost his life after being shot near a church just a few hundred feet from the centre where Maduro voted.
Accompanied by close advisers and state media, Maduro voted at 6:05 a.m. local time, far earlier and less publicly than in previous elections.
Maduro said: 'We've stoically withstood the terrorist, criminal violence.
Millions of Venezuelans are expected to go to the polls as they decide whether to back President Nicolas Maduro's plan to create a so called "constitutional super-body" on Sunday 30 July. "Hopefully the world will respectfully extend its arms toward our country". The oil industry is anxious they could target Venezuela's crude exports, 40 percent of which are bought by the United States. "The people are not going to give up the streets until this very bad government goes", one 54-year-old militant, Carlos Zambrano, told AFP.
The special assembly being selected on Sunday will have powers to rewrite the country's 1999 constitution but will also have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress. "I ask God for his blessings so the people can freely exercise their democratic right to vote", he said. Mexico, Colombia and Panama also sanctioned the same individuals.
The administration is warning that harsher measures could follow, with "strong and swift economic actions" if the vote happens Sunday, according to Trump.
Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly will be able to make decisions defining the authority of the National Assembly, the country's parliament, and to reform the Office of the Prosecutor General, the head of the government's election campaign, Hector Rodriguez, told Sputnik.
First, the Supreme Court was packed with loyalists of the president, and several opposition lawmakers were blocked from taking their seats.
On July 16, the country's opposition has held an unofficial referendum, in which 7.2 million people took part and nearly 6.4 million of them voted against the Constituent Assembly.