Venezuela’s Ni­co­las Maduro de­fies Trump over con­sti­tu­tion re-write

Govt to launch spe­cial emer­gency jus­tice plan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro said that con­tro­ver­sial plans to re-write Venezuela’s con­sti­tu­tion will move ahead “now more than ever” fol­low­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s threat of eco­nomic sanc­tions. Maduro, speak­ing late Tues­day to the coun­try’s De­fense Coun­cil, also said the gov­ern­ment will launch a “spe­cial emer­gency jus­tice plan” to cap­ture anti-ad­min­is­tra­tion “con­spir­a­tors,” who will then re­ceive “ex­em­plary pun­ish­ment.”The sharp words came af­ter Trump on Mon­day warned of un­spec­i­fied “strong and swift eco­nomic ac­tions” against Venezuela if the July 30 Con­stituent Assem­bly elec­tion was held.

An un­of­fi­cial plebiscite held by op­po­nents to the left­ist regime over week­end saw 7.6 mil­lion vot­ers-out of an elec­torate of 19 mil­lion-re­ject the planned Con­stituent Assem­bly and sup­port early elec­tions. The op­po­si­tion, which con­trols the Na­tional Assem­bly, fears that Maduro’s plan is de­signed to keep the left­ist ad­min­is­tra­tion in power in­def­i­nitely. Trump slammed Maduro as “a bad leader who dreams of be­com­ing a dic­ta­tor,” and said that the United States “will not stand by as Venezuela crum­bles.”

The United States and Venezuela have had decades of tense re­la­tions, dat­ing back to the time of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s men­tor and pre­de­ces­sor who died in 2013. Venezuela, which is al­most en­tirely re­liant on its oil ex­ports for rev­enues, ships a third of its crude pro­duc­tion to the United States. Venezuela’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sa­muel Mon­cada said Maduro had or­dered a “pro­found re­view” of ties with Wash­ing­ton. Nei­ther coun­try has had an am­bas­sador in the other since 2010.

Maduro de­fi­ant

“There is no power in this world that can break the will to be free and in­de­pen­dent,” a de­fi­ant Maduro told the De­fense Coun­cil, a gath­er­ing of most se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. “Now more than ever” Venezuela will pro­ceed with the Con­stituent Assem­bly, he said. Maduro’s tough rhetoric comes ahead of a 24-hour na­tion­wide strike set for Thurs­day, launch­ing what the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion calls a “fi­nal of­fen­sive” to push him out of of­fice.

Venezuela has en­dured nearcon­tin­u­ous protests for nearly four months that have left 97 peo­ple dead. The coun­try is in the midst of a deep eco­nomic cri­sis that in­cludes soar­ing in­fla­tion, wide­spread crime, and a dearth of medicine, food and house­hold ba­sics. Part of the eco­nomic down­turn stems from rel­a­tively low global prices for oil, the coun­try’s main ex­port.

But Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion also blames mis­man­age­ment by Maduro, who has stepped up the na­tion­al­iza­tion of busi­nesses, em­ployed the mil­i­tary to con­trol food dis­tri­bu­tion, and im­posed currency con­trols.

Maduro in turn blames an eco­nomic “war” against him that he claims is fo­mented by the rightwing op­po­si­tion work­ing with Wash­ing­ton. The pres­i­dent claims that his plan to have a Con­stituent Assem­bly re­write the con­sti­tu­tion is the only avail­able path to “peace” and eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

Weak in­ter­na­tional sup­port

That con­sti­tu­tional re­write plan how­ever has earned re­bukes from Ar­gentina, Brazil, Mex­ico and other Latin Amer­i­can na­tions, as well as Canada, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States, the United Na­tions and the Euro­pean Union. Bo­livia was one of the few to stand by Venezuela. Its left­ist pres­i­dent, Evo Mo­rales, ac­cused Trump of ma­neu­ver­ing to­ward an “in­ter­ven­tion and dom­i­na­tion of the Venezue­lan peo­ple.” “His goal is to grab its oil,” he said on his Twit­ter ac­count.

Mar­i­ano de Alba, an ex­pert on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, said the in­ter­na­tional pres­sure could em­pha­size to Maduro “the costs for the gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests” if it goes through with the Con­stituent Assem­bly. Groups giv­ing the gov­ern­ment its sup­port, he said, could be per­suaded “that the best op­tion is to seek a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion, be­cause that would be bet­ter than abruptly los­ing con­trol of the coun­try.”

Ri­ot­ing broke out in dif­fer­ent parts of Cara­cas on Tues­day af­ter protesters blocked streets in the cap­i­tal. Gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tors said on Twit­ter that a man died in the north­east­ern state of An­toategui when he was “burned dur­ing a demon­stra­tion,” but gave no de­tails or date of the al­leged in­ci­dent. “Ev­ery Venezue­lan must take in their own hands the re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­fend democ­racy,” said mu­si­cian Wuilly Arteaga, a lo­cal celebrity who plays his vi­olin dur­ing protests. “We’re in the streets to de­fend our rights, the con­sti­tu­tion and de­mand that Maduro leave,” he added.—AFP

CARA­CAS: A truck set ablaze by op­po­si­tion ac­tivists block­ing an av­enue dur­ing a protest burns in Cara­cas. —AFP

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