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Published On: Mon, Jul 17th, 2017

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

nsnbc : 7.2 million Venezuelans, in a non-binding plebiscite organized by the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition, voted against the Maduro administration’s and the socialist PSUV’s plans to elect a Constituent Assembly, on July 30, tasked with changing the 1999 Constitution that was adopted under the late Hugo Chavez.

Caracas protesters met with water cannons_Venezuela_Jul 2017Nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans cast ballots in the symbolic plebiscite against Maduro’s and the PSUV’s plan to change the 1999 constitution, university guarantors said with 95 percent of votes counted. The MUD, which is holding an absolute majority in the parliament that was suspended by the Constitutional Court, printed14 million ballots, but recogned that even a turnout of five million – fewer than the 7.2. million – would give them a mandate to continue protests, civil disobedience, and if necessary, “Zero-Hour-Protests”.

Venezuela “sent a clear message to the national executive and the world,” announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 abroad. Garcia said final results would be released Monday.

“We do not want to be Cuba, we do not want to be a country without freedom,” said Julio Borges, leader of the suspended MUD controlled parliament. It is worth noting that the PSUV-dominated Supreme Court usurped the powers of the legislative branch of government, claiming the National Assembly is in “contempt”.

“Today, Venezuela said yes to a dignified country, a democratic country, a country where people do not have to go because they have no future. The mandate the people have given us is clear.”

Sadly, also Sunday was marred by deadly violence. A 61-year-old woman was killed and three other people wounded when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on people lined up to vote in Catia, a working-class neighborhood in the capital, prosecutors said. The woman’s death brought to 96 the number of people who have died in nearly four months of protests and political agitation in Venezuela’s streets.

The MUD blamed the attack on “paramilitary groups” linked to the government – a thorough and independent investigation was recommended by several independent international observers. The central question before voters concerned Maduro’s and the PSUV intention to hold an election on July 30 to choose 545 members of a citizens’ body called the “Constituent Assembly” that would redo the constitution.

That said, there is less coherence within the ranks of the PSUV than the party and State-controlled media would want people to believe. Approval ratings for Maduro, and approval ratings for Maduro’s plan to change the 1999 Constitution penned under the late Hugo Chavez are hovering about 20 percent only.

The country’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, formerly a stern supporter of Maduro and the PSUV administration, 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. In Sunday’s plebiscite it 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?

CH/L – nsnbc 17.07.2017

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