Tensions are near breaking point in Venezuela ahead of a vote on 30 July which the beleaguered president, Nicolás Maduro, says will stabilize the flailing country – home to the world’s largest oil reserves – and which the opposition describes as a bald-faced power grab. Maduro has convened a national vote to elect a Constituent Assembly to redraft the country’s constitution. 364 members of the assembly will be chosen by local polls open to all registered voters. The remaining 181 members will be elected by members of seven social sectors, including pensioners, indigenous groups, businesspeople, peasants and students. The opposition has vowed to boycott the 30 July vote, which means voter turnout will be exclusively pro-government – and likely very low, given that Maduro’s approval rating hovers around 20%.
Articles about voting issues in South America.
Gunmen in Venezuela shot into a crowd of voters on Sunday, activists said, killing one woman and wounding three others during an unofficial referendum organised by the opposition to push for an end to two decades of socialist rule. The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said a pro-government “paramilitary” gang opened fire in Caracas’ poor neighbourhood of Catia, where thousands were participating in the event. Video footage showed people scattering as gunshots rang out, many taking sanctuary inside a church. “The day was stained by the killing of a Venezuelan woman who was protesting and exercising her rights,” said opposition leader Freddy Guevara of the killing of Xiomara Escot. “But violence cannot hide what has happened. The people are not afraid and are clear in their decision.“
Millions of Venezuelans signaled their disapproval of President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to hold a constituent assembly by casting ballots on Sunday in a vote unlike any other in this nation’s history. More than 98 percent of voters sided with the opposition in answering three yes-or-no questions drafted with the aim of weakening Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy days before his constituent assembly is expected to convene. Opponents see the assembly as a power grab by an increasingly unpopular leader and fear he may use it to do away with democratic elections. Sunday’s exercise, known as a popular consultation, was organized by a slate of opposition parties that dominate Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Venezuelan National Electoral Council, CNE, President Tibisay Lucena on Wednesday rejected calls by the right-wing opposition to boycott National Constituent Assembly elections scheduled for July 30. Lucena said that despite the call for violent protests by the opposition, the electoral body will guarantee citizens their right to participate by providing security throughout the election. The CNE official said opposition supporters are allowed to be against the National Constituent Assembly, but can’t impede other Venezuelans from voting. “An electoral process can not be prevented, it’s an attack to the very heart of democracy and human rights,” Lucena said. “I am sure that peace will prevail on July 30.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday urged officials to schedule an election to pick a new constituent assembly for July 30, but an emboldened opposition immediately called for a nationwide sit-in to protest against the move. Maduro on Sunday insisted that electing a new assembly to rewrite the constitution was the only way to end weeks of deadly protests, and turn a corner on Venezuela’s worsening political and economic crisis. In a televised speech he hailed what he said was a record number of people who registered to run as candidates in the vote. “Never has there been such a level of petitions and participation as there is in this case,” Maduro said. However, opponents have called the process a farce. They believe it is skewed to favour Maduro’s leftist authoritarian government, and have promised to boycott the vote.
The United States denounced the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday for suppressing protests and called for free elections, saying that he must not be allowed to follow a “dictatorship” path like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The Maduro government calls the protesters violent coup-mongers, supported by the United States. “This is an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that demands the world’s attention,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.S.-hosted panel of Venezuelan activists and experts held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The national Constituent Assembly will be made up of 540 members, including representatives of regions and sectors.
Venezuelans hoping to become representatives in the national Constituent Assembly can now register, while nominations of candidates have been scheduled to take place between June 6 and 10, electoral authorities announced Tuesday. Tibisay Lucena, director of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela, known as CNE, detailed the timeline and opened the floor to questions about the new voting process during a press conference in Caracas.
Faced with mounting unrest, Venezuela’s unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro vowed on Tuesday to push ahead in July with the formation of a “constituent assembly” to rewrite the constitution before regional elections in December. The South American OPEC member has been racked by strife, with 55 people killed during unrest in the past two months as public anger boiled over due to an economic meltdown that has left many Venezuelans scrabbling to afford three meals a day. In an apparent bid to show the government was seeking a democratic solution, the head of the pro-government electoral council said voting for a controversial “constituent assembly” would be held in late July.
Facing almost daily protest calling for new elections, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday offered what the opposition called a fraudulent alternative: a new constitution. Speaking to followers in the midst of a May Day march, Maduro said he would be calling a “constitutional assembly” that would replace the 1999 constitution forged by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. Maduro said the deep reform was needed to bring “peace to the republic,” and that he would be providing details about the process late Monday. But even before the plan had solidified, the opposition was rejecting it as yet another distraction. María Corina Machado, the leader with the Vente Venezuela party, said the people wouldn’t stop protesting what she called Maduro’s “mafioso dictatorship.”
Venezuela: As president calls for new constitution, Venezuela veers once again toward political chaos | Los Angeles Times
Already reeling from massive antigovernment marches in recent weeks, Venezuela is bracing for more demonstrations Wednesday as increasingly vocal activists protest the surprise plan by President Nicolas Maduro to draft a new constitution. Opposition leaders condemned the proposal as an antidemocratic move that will only aggravate the country’s ongoing political crisis. In an announcement at a May Day rally Monday, Maduro said he would seek to replace the constitution pushed through in 2000 by his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The new document would be drafted at an assembly consisting of 500 delegates, 250 of whom will be selected from “communal” groups recognized by Maduro’s government, which will likely assure his control over the final version, opponents said.