Venezuela in tur­moil af­ter vote

Lodi News-Sentinel - - World - By Michael Weis­senstein and Fabi­ola Sanchez

CARA­CAS, Venezuela — Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion lead­ers called Mon­day for a 24-hour na­tion­wide strike to in­crease pres­sure on the so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment af­ter more than 7 mil­lion peo­ple re­jected a plan to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion and con­sol­i­date the rul­ing party’s power over the coun­try, which has been stricken by short­ages and in­fla­tion and riven by more than 100 days of clashes be­tween protesters and po­lice.

The op­po­si­tion said the coun­try’s Na­tional Assem­bly, which it con­trols, would name new mem­bers to the gov­ern­ment-dom­i­nated Supreme Court, set­ting up a show­down with Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, whose party con­trols nearly all other state in­sti­tu­tions. Op­po­si­tion par­ties also plan to sign a dec­la­ra­tion call­ing for the for­ma­tion of an al­ter­na­tive “gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity,” a step to­ward to­tal re­jec­tion of gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity.

“Over­all the pack­age is pretty rad­i­cal, es­pe­cially the idea of a par­al­lel gov­ern­ment,” said David Smilde, a Tu­lane Univer­sity ex­pert on Venezuela. “I think it could lead to real chaos.”

He noted, how­ever, that the op­po­si­tion moves were to be im­ple­mented in phases over the next week, giv­ing both sides the op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate pos­si­ble con­ces­sions.

Af­ter some pro­ce­dural moves in the Na­tional Assem­bly on Tues­day, the op­po­si­tion said it would launch a plan it called “zero hour” on Wed­nes­day that in­cludes an agree­ment to form an al­ter­nate gov­ern­ment and cre­ate 2,000 lo­cal com­mit­tees that would func­tion as street-level sup­port for the op­po­si­tion.

That will be fol­lowed Thurs­day by a na­tion­wide strike, which could bring much of Venezuela’s al­ready sput­ter­ing econ­omy to a stand­still. Venezuela’s largest cham­ber of com­merce told The As­so­ci­ated Press that its mem­bers would not pun­ish em­ploy­ees for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the strike.

On Fri­day, the op­po­si­tion will name 13 judges to the supreme court to re­place those named by the out­go­ing, rul­ing party-dom­i­nated congress in 2015 in a process that le­gal ex­perts say vi­o­lated nom­i­na­tion pro­ce­dures. The nom­i­na­tions would not give the op­po­si­tion a supreme court ma­jor­ity but are al­most cer­tain to be re­jected by the cur­rent court and the ex­ec­u­tive branch, mak­ing them a largely sym­bolic tac­tic to in­crease pres­sure on Maduro.

There have been more than three months of street protests, which have left at least 93 peo­ple dead and 1,500 wounded. More than 500 protesters and gov­ern­ment op­po­nents have been jailed.

CARL JUSTE/MI­AMI HER­ALD

A woman places her name among oth­ers on a Venezue­lan flag as they exit the polling sta­tion Sun­day.

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