Un­rest as Venezuela vote looms

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Guardian staff and agen­cies

Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion were set to hold a two-day na­tional strike this week against Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro fol­low­ing a day of vi­o­lent clashes in Cara­cas last Satur­day where the in­jured in­cluded a vi­o­lin­ist who has be­come the face of the protests.

“Nei­ther rub­ber bul­lets nor pel­lets will stop our fight for Venezuela’s in­de­pen­dence,” said mu­si­cian Wuilly Arteaga. The 23-year-old has be­come fa­mous in Venezuela for play­ing his vi­o­lin as bat­tles rage around him.

More mass marches were ex­pected this week in an ef­fort to force Maduro into abort­ing a con­tro­ver­sial vote due to be held on Sun­day to elect a con­stituent assem­bly charged with rewrit­ing the con­sti­tu­tion.

Op­po­si­tion and hu­man rights groups say the move is aimed at by­pass­ing the Na­tional Assem­bly, which has been un­der op­po­si­tion con­trol since 2016, fur­ther con­sol­i­dat­ing the rul­ing So­cial­ist party’s grip on power. Maduro ar­gues a new con­sti­tu­tion would pro­mote di­a­logue in a coun­try po­larised and crip­pled by short­ages of medicine and ba­sic ser­vices, and by un­bri­dled vi­o­lent crime.

Last Satur­day, sev­eral thou­sand pro­test­ers sought to march on the pro-Maduro supreme court in sup­port of al­ter­na­tive mag­is­trates ap­pointed by the op­po­si­tion the pre­vi­ous day. Se­cu­rity forces blocked them with ar­moured cars and riot shields.

Foes ac­cuse Maduro of turn­ing Venezuela into a dic­ta­tor­ship. Maduro calls him­self a flag bearer for the in­ter­na­tional left, up against rightwing “ter­ror­ists” seek­ing a coup with the con­nivance of the US and the in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

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