Venezuela in turmoil after vote
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.
A woman places her name among others on a Venezuelan flag as they exit the polling station Sunday.