The economic development in Venezuela has been catastrophic in recent years. Large sections of the population live in poverty, with an acute shortage of food, medicines and consumables.
The Maduro regime claims the situation is due to what he calls "economic sabotage" from the country's rich right wing, but the vast majority of commentators agree that it is the government's own policy that is the cause.
Also the vast majority of Venezuelans believe so, and only about a quarter of Venezuelans now support their president.
This is the backdrop for today's referendum and for President Nicolas Maduro's desire to make a new constitution in Venezuela.
Only 25 percent of the population support the government's project, and many see it as a desperate attempt by the president to hold on to power - if necessary at the expense of the country's democracy.
At the same time, the opposition has been increasingly on the offensive lately, among other things by appointing its own Supreme Court judges. This has prompted President Maduro to accuse his opponents of creating a "parallel government".
In this situation, everything can happen in the crisis-struck Venezuela, and nothing can be ruled out - not even a civil war. Today's referendum could be the trigger.
READ: Bakers in Venezuela arrested for baking cakes
READ: Venezuelan shop owners weigh money instead of counting them
READ: Men killed and eaten in Venezuelan prison
READ: Venezuela has put ports under military control
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