Venezuela set to elect Constituent Assembly
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