Unrest as Venezuela vote looms
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.