By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — Venezuela’s opposition parties carried out a new protest on Monday, blocking several roads, continuing their protests against the Maduro Government, which sparked chaos in cities and has left several people injured and arrested.
The day of protests was summoned so as to call people to vote in the popular referendum on Sunday against President Maduro’s Constitutional Assembly, which is being organized without the National Electoral Council (CNE), which therefore is being discredited by the Government.
The protest, called the “National Blockage” was supposed to only last two hours at the beginning, but extended to ten, and it’s the first time a protest has been held after opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was released on Saturday and sent to carry out his sentence under house arrest.
Government leaders said that they hoped that the measure to change Lopez’s 14-year prison sentence to house arrest, would allow peace to reign again in the country, while the opposition has repeated that it will continue its protests anyway.
The opposition said that Monday’s protests gave visibility to the referendum on Sunday, July 16th, where three questions will be put to the vote about Maduro’s Constitutional Assembly, which was called without public consultation to rewrite the Constitution and whose 545 members will be chosen on the 30th of this month.
Caracas’ main roads, mainly in the eastern part of the city, were blocked by protesters who improvised roadblocks or congregated together in the middle of the street to prevent traffic from passing.
The opposition said the day of protest was held in different cities across the country, which has left an undetermined number of people injured and arrested.
The first vice-president of the National Assembly (Congress), Freddy Guevara, called the day of protests successful because of the way the blockades spontaneously multiplied.
“Hundreds of points closed by the people. We’ll continue, whoever isn’t on the street, come out,” he said.
Guevara added that 100 days after the current round of protests against the Government began, which will be reached this week, Lopez has been released and he called on people to get ready to go out and vote in the popular referendum on Sunday to show their disobedience.
Meanwhile, the chief of the National Guard (militarized police), General Sergio Rivero, said that an explosive blew up next to a motorized brigade of soldiers in the Chacao municipality, which left seven people injured, during the “sinister” event called for by the opposition.
“We continue forward with high morale fulfilling the mission ordered by the president and commander in chief, with regard to human rights. They (the opposition) are blocking public roads and curtailing the right of free movement, we will continue in the streets making sure that there is peace and calm,” he stated.
The chair of the Foreign Policy committee of the National Assembly (which has an opposition majority), Luis Florido, said that the protest today looked to repeat the call for the proposed referendum, which the opposition is calling a “plebiscite”.
He added that the referendum is backed by several articles in the Constitution. “(On Sunday) we will have millions of people telling Nicolas Maduro that his time is up, that change is coming and that we will bring about this change via democratic elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church urged Maduro to withdraw his proposal for the Constitutional Assembly, in a letter addressed to the president that was disseminated today.
The bishops said that it is pressing that Maduro withdraw his Constitutional Assembly proposal if he wants to resolve food and medicine shortages, problems with a lack of security and “to return” democratic institutions back to the country.
The opposition proposed their own referendum as a show of disobedience, as it won’t be organized by the Electoral Council. The Government has already rejected the results as binding saying it is an “unconstitutional” referendum.
The “plebiscite” will take place in over 1,900 voting stations across the country, in churches, business and cultural group facilities. The vote will be manual and everyone aged 18 and over can participate.