Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion calls for strike

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MICHAEL WEIS­SENSTEIN AND FABI­OLA SANCHEZ

Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion lead­ers called for a 24-hour na­tion­wide strike to in­crease pres­sure on the so­cial­ist govern­ment af­ter more than 7 mil­lion peo­ple re­jected a plan to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion and con­sol­i­date the rul­ing party’s power over the coun­try, which has been stricken by short­ages and in­fla­tion and riven by more than 100 days of clashes be­tween protesters and po­lice.

The op­po­si­tion also said Mon­day the coun­try’s Na­tional Assem­bly, which it con­trols, would name new mem­bers to the govern­ment-dom­i­nated Supreme Court, set­ting up a show­down with Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, whose party con­trols all but a few state in­sti­tu­tions. Op­po­si­tion par­ties also plan to sign a dec­la­ra­tion call­ing for the for­ma­tion of an al­ter­na­tive “govern­ment of na­tional unity,” a step to­ward to­tal re­jec­tion of govern­ment author­ity.

“Over­all the pack­age is pretty rad­i­cal, es­pe­cially the idea of a par­al­lel govern­ment,” said David Smilde, a Tu­lane Univer­sity ex­pert on Venezuela. “I think it could lead to real chaos within the govern­ment.”

He noted, how­ever, that the op­po­si­tion moves were to be im­ple­mented in phases over the next week, start­ing with the na­tion­wide strike on Thurs­day, giv­ing both sides the op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate pos­si­ble con­ces­sions.

Ear­lier in the day, op­po­si­tion par­ties had floated the idea of es­ca­lat­ing more than three months of street protests, which have left at least 93 peo­ple dead and 1,500 wounded. More than 500 protesters and govern­ment op­po­nents have been jailed.

Speak­ing at an af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence, op­po­si­tion leader Freddy Gue­vara made lit­tle men­tion of more protests, a sign that the op­po­si­tion had de­cided to change tac­tics in the wake of Sun­day’s vote.

“We call on the whole coun­try to launch a 24-hour na­tional strike this Thurs­day, a mas­sive, non-vi­o­lent protest, as a way to pres­sure the govern­ment and to pre­pare for the fi­nal steps, which will be next week, to con­front this fraud on the con­sti­tu­tional and to re­store con­sti­tu­tional or­der,” he said.

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