It’s hard to know what will happen next in Venezuela, but what Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told me in an interview this week should raise alarm bells throughout the hemisphere. Santos said during a visit to Miami that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hand-picked Constituent Assembly is drafting a new constitution that would be made public after Venezuela’s May 20 presidential elections. The new charter would officially turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style dictatorship, he said. Maduro, already a de facto dictator, is running for re-election for another five-year term. He has prohibited top opposition leaders from running against him, banned international election observers and refused to allow an independent electoral tribunal. The United States, European Union and all major Latin American countries — including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia — have said that they won’t accept the results of Maduro’s sham election.
Santos told me that Maduro’s Constituent Assembly is secretly drafting a new constitution of about 350 articles and 18 “transitory clauses” that would create a voting system like in Cuba, where government-controlled “mass organizations” elect local officials who in turn elect legislators, who ultimately pick the country’s top leaders.
“The information I have is that among the proposed constitution’s articles is one that would abolish the universal right to vote and establish a system of corporative elections similar to that of Cuba,” Santos told me. “That amounts to the formalization of a Soviet-styled dictatorship.”