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Published On: Sun, Jul 16th, 2017

Venezuela’s MUD calls for massive turnout in symbolic referendum against constitutional change

nsnbc : Venezuela’s Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition, holding a majority in the parliament that was suspended by the Supreme Court, calls for a massive turnout on July 16, in a symbolic referendum and rejection of President Nicolas Maduro’s and the socialist party (PSUV) plan to rewrite the constitution penned in 1999 during the administration of the late Hugo Chavez. The MUD also called for Zero-Hour-Protests, depending on support for their referendum which the MUD states is being held as sign of civil disobedience.

Venezuela_protests_Jul 2017_(archives)Venezuela has been shaken and is, after more than 100 days of protests against the PSUV administration of President Nicolas Maduro and plans to change the constitution, rapidly descending into chaos. Maduro and the PSUV called for a July 30 election of Constituent Assembly members who will be tasked with rewriting the Constitution; according to the PSUV to “consolidate the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution”.

The country’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, criticized the elections and the Constituent to be “corporatist” and lacking representation. The MUD boycotts the elections. Ortega was slammed with a travel ban, an asset freeze, and the Supreme Court ruled her office could no longer file criminal charges without the approval from a sitting judge – that is, from one of the judges she attempted to impeach and prosecute, and who usurped the powers of the legislative branch of government.

“This fraudulent constitutional assembly will create a majority that will shut congress, throw democracy out the window, wipe out state governors and fire the chief prosecutor,” said former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga, who flew to Caracas Saturday with a group of former Latin American presidents to support the opposition vote. “Tomorrow, democracy and freedom are in play.”

The MUD is boycotting the constitutional assembly and asked Venezuelans to oppose Maduro’s plans by showing up at 2,000 sites across the country to fill out ballots featuring three yes-or-no questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised of Maduro backers and opponents?

MUD lawmakers who have been denied access to the National Assembly for months, announce their plan to hold a plebiscite on July 16 as an act of civil disobedience.

MUD lawmakers who have been denied access to the National Assembly for months, announce their plan to hold a plebiscite on July 16 as an act of civil disobedience.

The MUD explained that it is holding the symbolic referendum as a sign of civil disobedience. The symbolic referendum has no legal impact; it will serve as a show of support whose success or failure will be measured in how many millions of people participate.

The Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition, comprised of some 20 parties and holding an absolute majority in the National Assembly (parliament) that was suspended by the Supreme Court for allegedly being “in contempt”, and whose powers were usurped by the Supreme Court, has printed 14 million ballots for voters inside and outside the country of 31 million people. T

he turnout will most likely not be as high as 14 million, but support, even from 5 – 8 million would be perceived as a clear mandate to continue pressuring the PSUV administration, civil disobedience, and Zero-Hour-Protests.

National Assembly Vice-President and Popular Will part leader Freddy Guevara descried the plebiscite as an act of civil disobedience. Depending on the result of the poll, the MUD will decide whether it will initiate what it describes as “Zero Hour Mobilizations”.

The MUD announced that it, depending on the outcome of the plebiscite, would take to the streets permanently, and make use of all of the mechanisms of protest simultaneously to achieve change. The announcement came as Venezuela is experiencing a spiral of violence, with ever more brutal and deadly police crackdowns as well as ever more radical demonstrations. By mid-July ay least 99 people, protesters as well as security personnel, have lost their lives since the demonstrations began on April 4.

The PSUV and the Maduro administration denounce the MUD-organized plebiscite as illegitimate because it will be held without the participation of the also PSUV-dominated National Electoral Council (CNE). The PSUV also criticized the MUD for not yet having provided key details about how e on July 16 will be organized and monitored.

Caracas Mayor and Socialist Party (PSUV) leader Jorge Rodriguez denounced the plebiscite as unconstitutional saying: “They [MUD]are convening a lie for July 16, a false plebiscite, without it being governed by the branch of public power established in the constitution, which is the Venezuelan Electoral Branch”.

The PSUV and the administration argue that Articles 71-74 of Venezuela’s constitution do allow for binding referenda to approve or revoke laws, recall elected officials, and consult the population on “issues of transcendental national importance”, but that the Magna Carta does not contain provisions for holding non-binding plebiscites organized independently of the CNE.

The MUD, for its part, announced that it considers the plebiscite as “an act of civil disobedience”, organized by lawmakers and parties who won an absolute majority in parliamentary elections, whose legislative rights and functions were usurped by the Supreme Court and by extension, by the PSUV. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Article 350 of Venezuela’s Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to resist “any regime that infringes on democratic values of human rights”.

PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello (archive)

PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello (archive)

The PSUV administration, in turn, calls the MUD’s plebiscite a manipulation aimed at destabilizing the country, and has been urging its supporters to participate in the constitutional assembly, which it calls a way of restoring peace to Venezuela. “Some comrades and brothers may be worn out by the right’s great media campaign. Now they’ve invented this July 16 thing to put the burden on their own people and evade their responsibility,” socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello claimed Saturday. “That’s how the right is, manipulative, fooling their own people.”

Anti-government PSUV administration demonstrators sat under a bridge that has graffiti written in Spanish that reads ‘Hunger,’ during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, July 1, 2017. Polls show that barely 20 percent of Venezuelans favor rewriting the Constitution that was written under the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez in 1999. About the same level of support they have for President Nicolas Maduro.

However, the PSUV and the Administration called for their own nationwide exercise Sunday, a rehearsal for the July 30 assembly is aimed to pull backers into the streets, thus increasing the risk of violent confrontations, and, arguably, an attempt to intimidate those who want to participate in the MUS’s plebiscite.

Opponents of Venezuela’s PSUV administration blame it for turning one of the region’s most prosperous countries into an economic disaster zone a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages.

The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices. The PSUV’s and the administration’s fallback position is – blame foreign manipulation and interference – an economic war – which may be factors.

Using them as excuses not to reflect on own failures while attempting a constitutional coup, however, is likely to set Venezuela on a course toward disaster. Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars, and the country is rapidly becoming ungovernable.

CH/L – nsnbc 16.07.2017

Follow-up article:

7.2 million Venezuelans voted against Maduro’s and PSUV’s plan to change the constitution

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