Venezuela’s Opposition Defies Maduro’s Call for New Constitution as ‘Giant Fraud’

Demonstrators block a road during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, 02 May 2017, over Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's call to elect a National Constituent Assembly and transform the Venezuelan legal system. Photo: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Venezuela’s President Maduro has boosted protests against his rule even further by announcing an initiative to rewrite the constitution.
  • Maduro has argued the move will help prevent a civil war and empower the common people.
  • Constituent assembly called up by Maduro can overrule any branch of Venezuela’s government.
  • Venezuela’s opposition has reacted strongly accusing him of a ‘coup’ and a plot to quiet down the protests and outflank the opposition-minded parliament.
  • US has warned of new sanctions against Venezuela over Maduro’s move.

Venezuela’s opposition has intensified further its protests demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, after he announced he would call up a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.

A total of 29 people have died in Venezuela’s antigovernment protesters which have raged for over a month now.

Protesters across Venezuela took to the streets from April 1 to demand the resignation of Maduro, the successor of late leader Hugo Chavez and his leftist ideology, after the country’s courts tried to strengthen his regime even further.

Last week, Venezuela’s government announced that it was going to start the process of withdrawing from the Organization of American States amid mounting international criticism that Maduro has been mishandling the ongoing street protests which continue to claim more and more lives.

The anti-government protests in Venezuela’s capital Caracas and a number of major cities have erupted as the oil-rich South American country has been sinking into a deeper and deeper economic crisis, partly as a result of low oil prices, coupled with a political crisis.

The street protests began in response to decisions by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to temporarily assume some of the responsibilities of the opposition-minded National Assembly, and to revoke the immunity of the legislators.

Although both decisions were overturned within days, opposition leaders continue to lead the protests aimed at toppling President Nicolas Maduro, removing the members of the Supreme Court, restoration of local and regional elections, and release of political prisoners.

Venezuela’s President Maduro calls the protesters “terrorists” and insists the demonstrations are cover for a coup plot by the US.

‘From the People’

Speaking to a mass rally of supporters on May 1 celebrated in Venezuela as International Workers Day, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced he would call a constituent assembly to remake the country’s constitution, Telesur reported.

“I announce that I will use my presidential privileges as constitutional head of state in accordance with article 347, to convene the original constituent power so that the working class and the people can call a national constituent assembly,” Maduro said Monday.

“I call a constituent assembly that will be profoundly communal, from the working class, from the people,” he added.

Venezuela’s current “Bolivarian Constitution” was adopted in 1999 as a result of Hugo Chavez’s election promise to rewrite it.

Maduro argued his step would be an important measure to overcome the current political conflicts in the country.

“I don’t want a civil war. Do you want dialogue? Constituent power! Do you want peace? Constituent power!” he said.

A handout photo made available by the Miraflores Palace’s Press Office shows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro showing a decree paving the way to a new constituent process in Caracas, Venezuela, 01 May 2017. Photo: Miraflores Press Office handout/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Coup!’

Venezuela’s opposition has reacted strongly to Maduro’s initiative for a new constitution viewing it is a means of his holding on to power.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles declared the President’s decision amounted to a “coup.”

“We alert the democratic governments of the world, international public opinion, Maduro consolidates a coup d’etat and deepens the serious crisis!” Capriles tweeted following President Maduro’s announcement.

“Faced with the dictator’s announcement of the constitutional fraud of the constituent assembly, people should go to the street and disobey such craziness,” Capriles said in another tweet.

According to the existing constitution, the new constituent body could overrule the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary.

The president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Julio Borges, called a constitutional assembly a “giant fraud” by Maduro and his allies designed to keep them in power.

Borges said it would deny Venezuelans the right to express their views at the ballot box, and he urged the military to prevent the “coup” by Maduro.

“What the Venezuelan people want isn’t to change the constitution but to change Maduro through voting,” he said, as cited by AP.

The antigovernment protest rallies across Venezuela responded to Maduro’s constitutional move by building roadblocks and barricades.

Security forces once again used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.

A handout photo made available by the Miraflores Press Office shows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro making fist during a demonstration of ‘Chavistas’ in Caracas, Venezuela, 01 May 2017. Photo: Miraflores Press Office handout/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

US Warns of Sanctions

The United States criticized on Tuesday Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s call for a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution, saying it was an attempt to stay in power in the face of opposition protests calling for his ouster.

“We have deep concerns about the motivation for this constituent assembly which overrides the will of the Venezuelan people and further erodes Venezuelan democracy,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western hemisphere, in a phone call with reporters, as cited by Telesur.

“What President Maduro is trying to do yet again is change the rules of the game” in an effort to remain in power, he added.

Fitzpatrick also said Maduro’s announcement on Monday night could lead to new sanctions being imposed on the South American country.

“The actions that were taken yesterday may well give us new reasons for considering additional individualized sanctions,” said the US official.

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