‘Zero Hour’ to stop Maduro

The Witness - - NEWS -

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.

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