Venezuela denounces US threats
World leaders slam Maduro’s plan
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.