Venezuela opposition to hold unofficial referendum on Maduro plan
Venezuela’s opposition says it would hold an unofficial referendum later this month on President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
The symbolic vote is due to be held on July 16 as part of the opposition’s attempts to delegitimize Maduro.
The Democratic Unity coalition said on Monday that Venezuelans will also be asked their view on the military’s responsibility for “recovering constitutional order” and the formation of a new “national unity” government.
“Let the people decide!” the National Assembly President Julio Borges has said.
The opposition’s planned referendum would take place two weeks ahead of Constituent Assembly elections, called by Maduro.
Maduro, whose government has faced massive protests in recent months, says the new assembly, a body with powers to rewrite the constitution and override other institutions, is a must to bring back peace to the country. The opposition, however, has boycotted the vote, arguing that the voting procedures heavily favor the government and are aimed at keeping the ruling Socialist Party in power despite its current unpopularity.
“The people have a right to vote and the people will vote on July 30, rain or shine!” Maduro said on Monday during a speech at an event with candidates to the new assembly.
Venezuela has been the scene of intense anti-government protests for more than two months. Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters have left over 75 people dead and 1,300 wounded.
The unrest was aggravated in early April after Venezuela’s Supreme Court decided to annul the powers of the opposition-controlled parliament. The move was regarded as a violation of the country’s constitution. The decision was later revoked, but the protests have only continued.
The opposition, which blames Maduro for the oil-rich county’s severe hyperinflation and widespread shortages of basic supplies, has been calling for an early presidential election meant to oust the president.
The Caracas government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated to remove Maduro from power and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has claimed the government has recruited criminal gangs to intimidate protesters.