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Venezuela opposition won’t join bid to rewrite constitution

8 May 2017 15:12

 

Venezuela’s opposition parties have refused to participate in a process called by President Nicolas Maduro to write a new constitution, instead planning more rallies to protest the plan.

The center-right Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) formally announced on Sunday that it would not be joining a “people’s” assembly, which is to convene at the presidential palace on Monday to write a new constitution.

“We cannot take part in a fraudulent process,” said MUD leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. “We have a constitution, and the government cannot repeal it by act of force.”

Maduro signed an executive order last week to form the assembly, saying that it would comprise “some 500 constituents,” who would be elected in a “direct and secret” vote.

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Venezuela’s opposition activists hold a demonstration in the capital, Caracas, May 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Maduro, who claimed that an “armed insurgency” was seeking to oust him, argued that there are only “two paths” before Venezuela. “Either there is peace or there is fascism. Either we rewrite the constitution or we bow to interventionism.”

It is not clear what specific changes Maduro and his allies plan to bring about by writing a new constitution, but he has insisted that a new constitution is needed “to restore peace” and stop the opposition from carrying out a “coup d’etat.”

Opposition leaders say writing a new constitution would give the president an excuse to put off regional elections scheduled for this year and a presidential election that was to be held in 2018.

Venezuela’s current constitution was drawn up by Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chaves, in 1999. Chavez introduced changes to an older constitution when he sworn in 1999. The changes allowed him to extend a five-year presidential term into a 13-year presidency.

Opposition leaders have planned another mass rally to demand early presidential elections. That rally would be held in the capital, Caracas, on Monday. Protesters are planned to march to the headquarters of the Education Ministry in central Caracas.

Students from the Central University of Venezuela run as police fire tear gas during a protest against the government of Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, May 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Another rally is organized for Wednesday, when protesters would march on the Supreme Court and other judicial offices around the country. Other protests are also scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Venezuela has recently been the scene of intense protests, which broke out after the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. Although that decision was later revoked, protests have only gained momentum.

At least 36 people have reportedly been killed in the protests so far.

The government claims the protests are incited by the Unites Stated to remove Maduro from power and accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition has similarly claimed that the government has mobilized criminal gangs against protesters.

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