Venezuela vote underway as Maduro foes vow to boycott

Updated 12:38 PM ET, Sun July 30, 2017

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN)After weeks of violent street clashes and tension, Venezuelans started casting ballots Sunday in a poll that could mark a turning point for their country.

Elio Herrera, who voted in a Caracas neighborhood, called the exercise “democratic and popular.”
The vote will allow President Nicolás Maduro to replace the current legislative body, the National Assembly, with a new institution known as the Constituent Assembly that will have the power to rewrite the constitution.
“It was a quick and simple process,” Herrera said, describing the ambiance at the polling station as happy and hopeful. But the stress marking the country’s politics simmered on Sunday as authorities braced for protests — and news broke that one of the candidates in the election, lawyer José Félix Pineda, had been shot dead in his home on Saturday.
The attorney general’s office tweeted that a state prosecutor is probing the death. “A group of people broke into the home of the victim in the Brisas del Sur sector and shot him multiple times,” the attorney general’s office said in a tweet. Pineda is listed as candidate number 3 in Bolivar state.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. ET Sunday, with nearly 380,000 troops guarding voting stations, and close at 6 p.m., according to a government release.
Experts have said the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Maduro will be able to consolidate political power. The opposition to Maduro fears the vote will erode democracy and give the Venezuelan leader sweeping authority.
Maduro’s administration has deemed any protests illegal, threatening anyone who defies the no-protest order with up to 10 years in prison.
Maduro, who said he was the first voter in today’s election, called casting the first vote a symbol of the independence and sovereignty of Venezuela.
He accused US President Donald Trump of trying to “prevent the people from carrying out its right to vote,” and boasted that his government is seeing through the vote despite international pressure.
“The Constituent Assembly will be the space, the power of powers, the super power that will, so to speak, recover the national spirit, find reconciliation, justice, find the truth.”
Maduro’s opponents control the National Assembly, holding 112 of the body’s 167 seats, and have been battling with him for political power since they won a majority of seats in December 2015. Before the winners of those elections took office, Maduro stacked the country’s Supreme Court with loyalists to prevent his own impeachment.
The proposed Constituent Assembly would be made up of 545 members, all nominated by Maduro’s administration. Nominees include his wife, Cilia Flores, and prominent loyalists such as former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and former Vice President Diosdado Cabello.

People queue to cast their vote to elect a Constituent Assembly in Caracas on Sunday.

The opposition hasn’t submitted any candidates for the vote because it doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the election. Maduro foes aren’t going to the polls and instead have scheduled a large protest in Caracas.
Ultimately, the vote and the creation of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly would give the President immense political power to revise the Venezuelan Constitution.
Maduro says the vote will help bring peace to a polarized country, with all branches of the government falling under the political movement founded by Maduro’s late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
Critics in Venezuela and abroad argue a Maduro mandate would erode any last signs of democracy in the country.
“It would give the government the opportunity to turn Venezuela into a one-party state without any of the trappings of democracy,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a business association.

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One Response to “Venezuela vote underway as Maduro foes vow to boycott”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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