Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has made it clear: Nothing short of the invasion threatened by President Donald Trump will stop him from holding a vote on a new constituent assembly that will officially replace the country’s legislature and likely allow the embattled president to rewrite the country’s Constitution, cementing his grip on power.
According to Bloomberg, Maduro has said the vote will be held next week in defiance of threats of US sanctions, and calls by his opponents for a two-day general strike. If approved, the new assembly will replace the country’s previous opposition-controlled assembly, which was annulled by the Maduro-controlled Supreme Court in March.
Once approved, it’s widely believed that Maduro will stock the assembly with political allies who will enable the re-drafting of the country’s constitution, allowing Maduro to consolidate power and officially marginalize anyone who opposes his regime.
In the face of mounting violence, opposition lawmakers are urging citizens to demonstrate at polling places in a last-ditch attempt to foil the vote. The death toll from street demonstrations demanding Maduro’s exit that have become a daily occurrence in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities since they started in April recently topped 100.
“Deputy Simon Calzadilla, speaking for Unidad Democratica, urged Venezuelans to go to their electoral centers Monday at 10 a.m. to place protest banners and signs that say ‘in my voting place there won’t be a constituent assembly.’
Calzadilla, in an email, also asked citizens to rally to Caracas next Friday to “demand massively” that Maduro’s government halt the assembly vote.
If the regime doesn’t cancel this fraud by Friday, the party will inform of the actions it will behold on July 29 and 30, Calzadilla said in the statement. “Center by center, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood to defeat Maduro’s proposal.”
The US has threatened “strong and swift economic actions” against the regime, which could force Venezuela into a default if the US stops buying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day from the country. The creation of the assembly will enrage millions of Venezuelans who are fighting against the entrenchment of the Maduro regime. Unsurprisingly, Maduro is struggling with abysmally low approval ratings. In a symbolic vote, 7.5 million Venezuelans who participated in an unsanctioned ballot overwhelmingly voted against the assembly.
In the run up to the vote, violence against Venezuela’s political opposition is intensifying. On July 5, Venezuela’s independence day, a mob of pro-government thugs brutalized a group of opposition lawmakers who were protesting Maduro’s plans to hold a vote on the new assembly. The irony of this exercise in repression was probably lost on the Maduro regime, which denied involvement and condemned the attack.