Venezuela set to elect Con­stituent Assem­bly

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — Anti-gov­ern­ment protests con­tin­ued on Sat­ur­day, try­ing to de­rail a na­tional vote to be held one day later to elect a 545-mem­ber Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly tasked to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion for Venezuela.

Op­po­si­tion-led protests de­mand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro have lasted some four months, caus­ing at least 110 deaths. The three lat­est ones were con­firmed to hap­pen on Fri­day in the cap­i­tal Cara­cas and the states of Tachira and Merida.

On Fri­day, the op­po­si­tion coali­tion, the Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable, re­jected the gov­ern­ment’s lat­est in­vi­ta­tion for di­a­logue.

“We will not let up the pres­sure on false hopes,” Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable spokesper­son Freddy Gue­vara told a news con­fer­ence. “The only way we are go­ing to (hold) di­a­logue will be if they tie up and im­prison us,” he said.

Maduro said on Sat­ur­day his gov­ern­ment has been hold­ing se­cret talks with the Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable in re­cent weeks.

“In the past six weeks, there have been di­rect con­ver­sa­tions be­tween en­voys from the Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable and a pres­i­den­tial del­e­ga­tion led by Jorge Ro­driguez (mayor of Cara­cas), Delcy Ro­driguez (for­mer for­eign min­is­ter) and Elias Jaua (ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter),” said Maduro dur­ing a cam­paign speech.

The op­po­si­tion has de­nied re­ports that the talks fo­cused on a time­line to hold fresh elec­tions, among other po­lit­i­cal is­sues.

“We were about to reach an agree­ment to is­sue a state­ment ap­proved by all po­lit­i­cal par­ties of the Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable when he (an un­named Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable leader)...called for a gen­eral strike,” said Maduro.

A 48-hour gen­eral strike since Thurs­day fur­ther in­ten- si­fied protests. Chaos and vi­o­lence in­clud­ing burn­ing and van­dal­iz­ing build­ings have been re­ported in anti-gov­ern­ment protests that have been tak­ing place al­most daily since April in the South Amer­i­can coun­try.

Freddy Gue­vara, Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable vice-pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Assem­bly, has urged sup­port­ers not to “lower the pres­sure, based on false il­lu­sions, for one mo­ment.”

Maduro has called the Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly the only way out of Venezuela’s po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis while the Demo­cratic Unity Roundtable has re­jected it as a power grab.

Maduro ex­pressed con­fi­dence on Fri­day that the Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly elec­tion will see the op­po­si­tion de­feated.

“This Sun­day, July 30, the peo­ple are go­ing to pun­ish you at the polls,” said the pres­i­dent.

Luis Gavazut, a so­cial sciences re­searcher, said: “Ev­i­dently, the Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly is a space for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue at a na­tional level.”

Gavazut also dis­missed op­po­si­tion al­le­ga­tions that Maduro’s plan for the Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion has led to more vi­o­lence, say­ing vi­o­lence was due to fac­tors such as poverty and hunger.

We were about to reach an agree­ment to is­sue a state­ment...” Ni­co­las Maduro, pres­i­dent of Venezuela

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