By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — Five people died during a 48 hour general strike summoned by the Venezuelan opposition, in the largest protest against the Constitutional Assembly which is being pushed by President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition has called the civic strike “successful” which ended today at 6 AM, and called upon the people to get ready for new days of protests on Friday, Saturday and even Sunday, when the election to vote for the Constitutional Assembly’s 545 members, which is being proposed by Maduro, will take place.
The first vice-president of the National Assembly (Congress), Freddy Guevara, rejected a ruling issued by the Minister of Domestic Affairs, Nestor Reverol, which banned protests as of Friday in order to ensure security at the time of the election for the Constitutional Assembly.
“The people know that this is a total fraud and they won’t go, so they are trying to impose this appalling sham by force. What Maduro needs to know is that the Venezuelan people won’t let him enslave them. We have called upon the Venezuelan people so that we can prepare for intense days of protests on the streets, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to let the world know just how fraudulent this process is,” he said at a press conference.
Continuing on, Guevara said that the strike was a “success”, as it was accepted by 90% of the people in 23 different regions within the country, but he lamented the number of victims the two days of strike have left behind, which were accompanied by road blocks.
The Attorney General confirmed the death of a teenager at a protest in the residential neighborhood of El Paraiso in the south-west of Caracas, due to a bullet in his head.
Joining him, was a man who was shot down in the interior region of Carabobo; two young people who died in the Andean region of Merida; and a teenager in the working-class neighborhood of Petare, to the east of Caracas, events which are being investigated by the Attorney General.
These deaths have raised the death toll to 105 during anti-government protests which began almost four months ago.
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Reverol announced that as of Friday, protests which might “disturb” the process to elect the Constitutional Assembly will be banned.
“Meetings and demonstrations, concentrations of people and any other similar act that may disturb or affect the normal development of the electoral process are prohibited throughout the country,” he pointed out at a press conference.
He further warned that “whoever organizes, holds or incites any activities directed at disturbing the organization and development of the election or social life in the country, will be sentenced to 5-10 years in prison.”
The opposition had already announced that it would carry out a large mobilization in Caracas on Friday and that it would then announce its protests for Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, the national 48 hour strike took place with empty streets and closed stores, due to the support of transport drivers who also joined the strike. However, the Caracas metro worked normally, albeit transporting less passengers that it normally does.
Meanwhile, Maduro invited the opposition to abandon their street protests and to sit down again and talk, although he cynically warned that, if it refused to do so, the Constitutional Assembly could make them talk “compulsorily”.
“I propose to the opposition that they leave behind their insurrectional path, that they return to the Constitution and we install in the next few hours a table of dialogue, national agreement and reconciliation, a national table of understanding, to talk about peace and the country’s issues,” Maduro said in the closing ceremony of the campaign along the main Bolivar avenue.
Maduro claimed that the “alleged” strike summoned by the opposition was defeated by the working class. “There hasn’t been a strike here, we have work here,” he said.
“The people and the working class defeated this threat from Hitler’s offspring,” he said referring to congressman Freddy Guevara, one of the people who organized the strike.
Maduro insisted on not withdrawing the election for the Constitutional Assembly and that its members will be chosen on Sunday, in spite of sanctions being applied by the United States on 13 Venezuelan government officials.
In Caracas, protests extended to working-class neighborhoods, where government security forces were present to dissipate them. Meanwhile, to the east of the city, roadblocks continued with barricades created using tree trunks, rubble and pieces of metal.
“Let our silence continue to speak out against Maduro’s fraud throughout the country, on the second day of strike in Venezuela. We want solutions,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter.
In the meantime, Mexico announced that it would support the sanctions announced by the US Department of the Treasury, which includes freezing assets belonging to 13 Venezuelan government officials, by providing information to the United States.