Venezuela de­nounces US threats

World lead­ers slam Maduro’s plan

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

IN THE wake of a na­tional dry run vote for the Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly on Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro de­fended Venezuela’s “dig­nity and sovereignty” against threats by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who in a state­ment on Mon­day de­scribed Maduro as “a bad leader who dreams of be­com­ing a dic­ta­tor”.

“If the Maduro regime im­poses its Con­stituent As­sem­bly on July 30, the US will take strong and swift eco­nomic ac­tions.”

Trump’s threats were re­peated by the US State De­part­ment which re­leased a state­ment call­ing on “the govern­ment of Venezuela to aban­don the pro­posed Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly”.

The warn­ing came af­ter record num­bers turned out to par­tic­i­pate in a his­toric dry run vote for the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, which, Caracas says, is aimed at eas­ing ten­sions and cre­at­ing a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­sti­tu­tion.

De­spite the mass show of pub­lic sup­port, the event was largely ig­nored by many in­ter­na­tional me­dia out­lets, as in­ter­na­tional lead­ers con­tin­ued to crit­i­cise the Venezue­lan govern­ment and de­mand im­me­di­ate elec­tions.

White House spokesper­son Sean Spicer called on Venezuela to can­cel the Con­stituent As­sem­bly and con­vene “free and fair elec­tions”.

EU diplo­mat Fed­er­ica Mogherini like­wise urged Maduro to sus­pend plans to con­vene the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, not­ing that the move would be “an im­por­tant ges­ture” to­ward de-es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions.

This mes­sage was echoed by Span­ish Pres­i­dent Mar­i­ano Ra­joy and Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni, who penned an opin­ion piece for Span­ish news­pa­per El Mundo crit­i­cis­ing the Venezue­lan govern­ment.

Maduro has re­acted sharply to the crit­i­cism, telling Ra­joy “get your nose out of Venezuela” while re­mind­ing the “in­so­lent” Mogherini that “Venezuela is a free, sov­er­eign coun­try… not a colony of Europe”.

In de­fence of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, Maduro re­called the Bat­tle of Ay­acu­cho in Peru, a con­clud­ing mil­i­tary vic­tory of the Latin Amer­i­can revo­lu­tion­ary wars, in which the forces of Grand Mar­shal An­to­nio José de Su­cre forced Span­ish forces to sur­ren­der and end its reign over South Amer­ica.

“Ours is a Con­stituent As­sem­bly for in­de­pen­dence, sovereignty and na­tional dig­nity,” Maduro claimed.

“Let Europe say what it wants to say, we do not care what Europe says. We care about this land, our dig­nity, the land of the lib­er­a­tors of the Amer­i­cas.”

The dry run vote was held on Sun­day in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the of­fi­cial vote for the Na­tional Con­stituent As­sem­bly on July 30.

Given a surge in right-wing protest vi­o­lence, Tibisay Lu­cena, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil, said the vot­ing ex­er­cise was im­por­tant to en­sure that the vot­ers can ex­er­cise their right to vote in safe con­di­tions. She ex­plained that part of the ex­er­cise was to iden­tify those lo­cal­i­ties where the safety of vot­ers could be threat­ened.

While there were some re­ports of vi­o­lence, the dry run vote was largely car­ried out in a fes­tive mood. Al­most 500 polling cen­tres were au­tho­rised and nearly 1950 vot­ing ma­chines were de­ployed to help vot­ers learn how to use them.

The dry run vote co­in­cided with a sym­bolic ref­er­en­dum called by the op­po­si­tion which asked peo­ple to vote whether they want a con­stituent as­sem­bly or not; whether they want the armed forces to sup­port the ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tion and the de­ci­sions of the na­tional as­sem­bly; and whether they want im­me­di­ate gen­eral elec­tions.

Venezue­lans in other parts of the world, in­clud­ing Mi­ami, New York and Spain, also par­tic­i­pated in the non-bind­ing ref­er­en­dum.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers claimed more than 7 mil­lion Venezue­lans par­tic­i­pated, 98% of whom op­posed the as­sem­bly, but short of the 11 mil­lion they had hoped for in a coun­try of just un­der 20 mil­lion vot­ers.


US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, left, and Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

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