‘Zero Hour’ to stop Maduro
CARACAS — Energised by a massive vote against President Nicolas Maduro in an unofficial plebiscite, Venezuela’s opposition mulled yesterday how to escalate protests and block a new congress it fears may enshrine Socialist Party hegemony.
After months of demonstrations that have led to nearly 100 deaths, the Democratic Unity coalition brought millions onto the streets on Sunday for an informal referendum intended to delegitimise a leader they call a dictator.
Now, opposition leaders are promising “Zero Hour” in Venezuela to demand a general election and stop the leftist Maduro’s plan to create a controversial new legislative superbody called a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote.
Opposition tactics may include lengthy road blockades and sitins, a national strike, or possibly even a march on the Miraflores presidential palace, similar to events before a shortlived coup against Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez in 2002.
“Today, Venezuela stood up with dignity to say freedom does not go backwards, democracy is not negotiated,” Julio Borges, who leads the oppositioncontrolled legislature, said shortly after midnight when the referendum results were announced.
“We don’t want a fraudulent Constituent Assembly imposed on us. We don’t want to be Cuba. We don’t want to be a country without freedom,” he said.
Maduro dismissed Sunday’s event as an internal exercise by the opposition with no bearing on his government.
“Don’t go crazy, calm down,” he said in a message to the opposition, vowing his Constituent Assembly would bring peace to the volatile nation of 30 million people.
Though polls show the opposition has majority support and his foes repeatedly call for a free and fair election as their top demand, Maduro insists they are U.S. pawns intent on sabotaging the economy and bringing him down through violence.