Today is a decisive day for Venezuela as a few part of its population is choosing the new 545-members of the National Constituent Assembly that will solve the opposition-controlled parliament, and that will write a new constitution. These elections take place after more than three months of protests that have left more than 120 deaths all over the country.

Maduro and other leaders of the government have predicted a “great victory” in these elections, while the initiative has been strongly criticized by international organizations and the international community. Opposition leaders have deemed this event as a “constitutional fraud,” and they say it would end democracy in Venezuela for good. They have called people to boycott these elections.

Image credit: Caraota Digital
Image credit: Caraota Digital

“On 30 July, the constitutional assembly will happen,” Maduro said. “I’ve been loyal to Chávez’s legacy. Now it’s your turn.”

 A constitutional dictatorship

It is not a secret that Venezuela’s democracy has suffered a significant deterioration since Hugo Chávez took power and especially after Maduro – Chávez’s chosen successor – became president after his death. Repression, impunity, and hunger have become part of the Venezuelan’s way of living. Every day, hundreds of people leave Venezuela to seek asylum in other countries of the world, trying to escape from fear and the worsening crisis.

Since the end of April, a number of riots and manifestations have taken place around the country to protest against the government and the lack of division of power. On May 1, President Maduro announced that there would be a Constituent Assembly to write another constitution, overruling the one written at the beginning of Chavez’s administration in 1999. From that moment on, Venezuelans have been fighting on the streets to show their disapproval towards the possibility of having a new constitution that has the aim of increasing the control of the government over the state and the population reducing thus political liberties and human rights.

Since the end of April, a number of riots and manifestations have taken place around the country. Image credit: El Confidencial
Since the end of April, a number of riots and manifestations have taken place around the country. Image credit: El Confidencial

The legacy of Chavez is forgotten

The government claims that this new constitution will be just as the “Chavez’s Constitution of 1999” with a few changes that aim to guarantee peace and a new economic order that decreases Venezuela’s dependence on oil exports. Government’s leaders, such as Diosdado Cabello, have said on different occasions that they will use this new constitution to remove the Parliamentary immunity that protects some leaders of the opposition and to control some institutions such as the Public Ministry, that is presided by Prosecutor General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz.

Ortega considers herself to be a chavist; however, her role in Venezuelan’s politics has given a twist because she says she is against a new constitution. According to her, it will be used to install a constitutional dictatorship, to deepen the power of the government and to persecute opposition. She also believes that she will be removed from her position as soon as the new Assembly is installed because she is no longer following direct orders from Maduro.  Ortega, along with other chavist leaders, considers that the constituent will put an end to the real spirit of chavism.

90 percent of the population rejects the constituent

More than 10 people have been killed by the Bolivarian national guards since Wednesday when opposition leaders called for a national strike. These leaves more than 120 deaths and more than 2000 wounded during the protests of the last three months, not counting the thousands who have died due to violence, lack of access to medical services and hunger. Most of the victims are young men who have been shot by national officers and armed civil groups known as “colectivos” who are aligned with the government.

Most Venezuelans reject the constituent. Image credit: Reuters / Televisa
Most Venezuelans reject the constituent. Image credit: Reuters / Televisa

The country, which is already facing a keen humanitarian and economic crisis – with no food, no medications, a rampant inflation, and lack of production – has been affected by the inoperative situation that comes with the protests.

For today, the opposition leaders – such as deputies Freddy Guevara and Miguel Pizarro – have called people to boycott the elections and to reject the results of the National Electoral Council, which should be integrated by impartial and non-political representatives. However, most of its members are openly aligned with the government and have accepted to carry out these elections on terms that are openly unfair and undemocratic.

As well, it is important to consider that the new Assembly that is chosen today won’t have representatives from the opposition since its leaders decided not to participate in something that they believe is not democratic or constitutional. They say that these elections are rejected by 90 percent of Venezuelans.

OAS secretary-general, Luis Almagro, has pledged the government for months to suspend such unpopular elections and to set a fair and equilibrated negotiation that may give real solutions to the humanitarian crisis of this Latin-American country. He was also concerned because public civil servants, old people and benefactors of public social programs are forced to vote in these polls to avoid retaliations such as losing their jobs or certain welfare benefits.

“Tomorrow we rebel,” tweeted Freddy Guevara, vice-president of the opposition-held national legislature

Source: The Guardian