Venezuela Opposition Plans Next Move After Big Anti-Maduro Vote — “No one can ignore this one sided vote”

CARACAS — Energized by a massive vote against President Nicolas Maduro in an unofficial plebiscite, Venezuela’s opposition mulled on Monday how to escalate protests and block a new congress it fears may enshrine Socialist Party hegemony.

(Graphic: Venezuela’s dark days: http://tmsnrt.rs/2pPJdRb)

After months of street rallies that have led to nearly 100 deaths, the Democratic Unity coalition brought millions onto the streets on Sunday for an informal referendum intended to de-legitimize a leader they call a dictator.

Now, opposition leaders are promising “Zero Hour” in Venezuela to demand a general election and stop the leftist Maduro’s plan to create a controversial new legislative super-body called a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote.

Opposition tactics could include lengthy road blockades and sit-ins, a national strike, or possibly even a march on the Miraflores presidential palace, similar to events before a short-lived coup against Maduro’s successor Hugo Chavez in 2002.

“Today, Venezuela stood up with dignity to say freedom does not go backwards, democracy is not negotiated,” Julio Borges, who leads the opposition-controlled legislature, said shortly after midnight when the referendum results were announced.

“We don’t want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us. We don’t want to be Cuba. We don’t want to be a country without freedom,” he added, promising further announcements on opposition strategy during Monday.

Maduro, whose term is due to end in early 2019, dismissed Sunday’s opposition event as an internal exercise by the opposition with no bearing on his government.

“Don’t go crazy, calm down,” he said on Sunday in a message to the opposition, vowing his Constituent Assembly would bring peace to the volatile nation of 30 million people.

Maduro, 54, a former bus driver and long-serving foreign minister for Chavez, narrowly won election in 2013 but has seen his ratings plunge, to just over 20 percent, during a brutal economic crisis in the South American OPEC member.

ON “SHOW OF FORCE”

Though polls show the opposition has majority support and his foes repeatedly call for a free and fair election as their No. 1 demand, Maduro insists they are U.S. pawns intent on sabotaging the economy and bringing him down through violence.

Most Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, which will have power to rewrite the constitution and annul the current opposition-led legislature, but Maduro is pressing on anyway for the vote in two weeks’ time.

In three questions at Sunday’s event, opposition supporters voted overwhelmingly – by 98 percent – to reject the proposed new assembly, urge the military to defend the existing constitution, and support elections before Maduro’s term ends, according to academics monitoring the vote for the opposition.

Sunday’s nearly 7.2 million participation compared with 7.7 million opposition votes in the 2015 legislative elections that it won by a landslide and 7.3 million votes for the opposition in a 2013 presidential poll narrowly won by Maduro.

“The result is a remarkable show of force for Venezuela’s opposition,” New York-based Torino Capital said in a research note, noting the vote was only called two weeks previously and participation meant openly defying the government.

“We can assume that the number of people voting was less than that which would turn out to vote in a regular election ..

The results seem to confirm that the opposition would easily defeat the government in any election.”

The political turmoil has taken a heavy toll on Venezuela: 95 deaths in unrest since April, thousands of injuries, hundreds of arrests, and further damage to an economy already in its fourth year of decline.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Andreina Aponte in Caracas, Francisco Aguilar in Barinas; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Voters in Caracas, Venezuela, participated in a nationwide exercise known as “popular consultation” on Sunday. CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

CARACAS, Venezuela — 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.

Organizers had hoped that a large turnout and a lopsided result would widen rifts within the governing party and deepen the government’s international isolation, undermining Mr. Maduro’s plan to appoint an assembly of handpicked supporters to draft a new Constitution.

Shortly before midnight, a group of Venezuelan university administrators tasked with overseeing the vote count said that more than 7,186,000 ballots had been cast. Organizers hailed the outcome and the turnout.

“This country demonstrated once again that it conquers its aspirations through the vote,” Cecilia García Arocha, the head of the Central University of Venezuela, said as she announced the results.

The exercise was organized by a slate of opposition parties that dominate the country’s Parliament.CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

“This fight was born on the street and today it continues and will continue to be waged on the streets until we restore democracy and liberty,” Leopoldo López, an opposition leader released from prison and placed under house arrest last weekend, said on Twitter. “Today millions decide and establish a mandate. No one should doubt that it is binding and that we must defend it and ensure it is heeded.”

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2 Responses to “Venezuela Opposition Plans Next Move After Big Anti-Maduro Vote — “No one can ignore this one sided vote””

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.

  2. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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