Maduro seeks way out with charter plan
Faced with mounting unrest, Venezuela’s unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro vowed on May 23 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 a bid to show the government was seeking a democratic solution, the head of the pro-government electoral council said voting for a “constituent assembly” would be held in late July.
Regional gubernatorial elections, meant to have been held last year, would take place on Dec. 10, he said. The opposition reacted with fury, convinced that these moves were Maduro’s way of clinging to power.
Maduro’s rivals fear that a new constituent assembly could rewrite rules or exclude opposition parties, making a sham of future elections that would likely vanquish the ruling socialists if the polls were free and fair.
“Today’s decision is nothing more than an evil announcement meant to divide, distract, and confuse Venezuelans further,” said Congress president Julio Borges, the opposition leader whose coalition is pushing for early elections, humanitarian aid to alleviate food and medicine shortages, and freedom for jailed activists.
“Today we’ve entered a new stage and that means more struggle and more street action,” Borges said in a video late on May 23.
Riots and looting have raised risks that protests could spin out of control, given the widespread hunger, anger at Maduro and easy access to weapons in one of the world’s most violent countries.