Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, Maduro’s Controversial Gamble

By Angel Alberto Gonzalez (dpa)

Nicolas Maduro announcing his victory in the vote for a Constituent Assembly in Venezuela to increase his powers. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) promoted by Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, with the mission of virtually reestablishing the Republic, will be instated on Friday in what will be a great political wager full of risks amid accusations of votes being manipulated.

The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) noted that the ANC needed to be approved in a referendum and that the voting foundations imposed by Maduro violated the principle of proportional elections to favor the government. That’s why it decided not to take part in the vote and is not recognizing acts carried out by the ANC.

And to add to this controversy, on Wednesday, the company Smartmatic, which has supplied machines and technological support to Venezuela’s elections for over a decade, has reported that votes were manipulated by means of exaggerating participation “by a million votes at least.” The government denies there was any electoral manipulation in the counting of votes.

One of the greatest unanswered questions with regard to this process revolves around the future of the Legislative Power, as the ANC could use its power to assume the National Assembly’s (Congress) powers, which is controlled by the opposition, and could even dissolve it.

Maduro also promised that he was going to take immunity away from several opposition lawmakers who he has blamed for street protests in recent months, which have left more than 100 people dead and has promised that many of them will end up “in a cell”.

The government has also promised “to turn [the Attorney General’s Office] inside out like a sock”, whose leader, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, has become a staunch critic of Maduro and the ANC, in spite of coming from Chavism’s ranks.

However, voiding – or dissolving – Parliament and taking over the Attorney General’s Office could be considered a coup organized by the government itself to allow it to take extra powers which would only worsen international opinion about the Government.

Currently, Maduro is only receiving unconditional support from Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and several English-speaking Caribbean countries, while the US, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Chile, the European Union and Mercosur countries have openly criticized his leadership and have announced that they will not recognize the ANC.

In spite of this, Maduro appeared defiant when Washington announced that it will not recognize the Constituent Assembly. “What the hell do we care about what (the US president, Donald) Trump says. We care about what Venezuela’s sovereign people say,” he said in response.

With regard to reforming the Constitution, Maduro has said that he is seeking to increase sentences for several crimes, from murder to political violence, but he also claimed that the ANC will patent the Revolution’s social achievements such as access to housing, healthcare or education.

In the economic arena, the ANC’s mission will be “to overcome oil dependency” and to defeat “the financial war” that the government accuses the opposition of waging. According to the socialist president, these are the causes of problems such as the overwhelming inflation and food and medicine shortages which Venezuelans are suffering.

Different analysts have warned that the ANC won’t be able to resolve any of the problems that the population is complaining about, as only the Government can end them with a set of fiscal measures and currency operations which Maduro isn’t willing to take on.

Meanwhile, the Bolivar has lost a third of its value on the parallel market from the ANC election on Sunday, going from 10,000 to 13,700 Bolivars to the US dollar, which promises to worsen the country’s economic decline.

In this way, the Constituent Assembly will become Maduro’s “all or nothing” wager, where if he comes out winning, he could take absolute control of all the legislative powers, tie the opposition’s hands behind their backs and have an economic system where the State becomes the great helmsperson,

However, the Constituent Assembly could also deepen the political crisis, aggravate street protests and speed up the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, which could weaken Maduro’s Government up until the point of causing its collapse.

How will Maduro’s Constituent Assembly work and what will it do?

By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)

The opposition does not recognize the Constituent Assembly as legitimate, and says protests will continue.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The Constituent Assembly which Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has proposed to rewrite the Constitution will be instated in Caracas on Friday with full powers.

Maduro’s wife, Celia Flores, said that the Constituent Assembly will hold a session at the Palacio Federal Legislativo, the home of the National Assembly (Congress), controlled by the opposition, which could be made void by the new mechanism which will be instated in the middle of an alleged fraud scandal with Sunday’s election.

The following are the five key pieces of information about how it will work:

When will it be instated?

The Constituent Assembly will be instated on Thursday with its 545 members, whose register was announced by the National Electoral Council (CNE). During its installation, a president will need to be elected and all eyes are on Celia Flores, and the government’s leader at the National Assembly, Hector Rodriguez.

Where will it operate?

It is expected to be instated at the Palacio Federal Legislativo, where the National Assembly is currently operating, which won’t be recognized if it holds sessions in parallel or at another local. Maduro has suggested that the Constituent Assembly might dissolve the Assembly, but there are doubts about this due to the international community questioning the election. In the 1999 elections, which gave birth to the current Constitution as a result, that Constituent Assembly closed Congress before its deliberations. The leader of the National Assembly, opposition leader Julio Borges, suggested that the current legislature could continue to hold sessions even though it isn’t recognized by the Constituent Assembly.

What legal reforms will it make?

The Constituent Assembly will be established with plenipotentiary powers, that is to say, it will be a superpower which can reform any already established power. As well as targetting the National Assembly, the government also has its eyes on Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, the most critical voice within the government about the Constituent Assembly. Maduro has put forward a set of measures such as creating a Truth Commission which is investigating cases of violence in recent years and a law to increase jail sentences for price speculation with consumer goods, in order to stop “induced inflation” by businessmen, according to the leader.

How long will it last?

Nobody knows how long the Constituent Assembly is being deliberated for. As the president of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly, Elias Jaua suggested that it could be a year, during which they could suspend all elections, according to the opposition.

Forecasts: elections of governors in December and presidential elections (at the end of 2018).

Will it be able to put a stop to the protests?

The lines drawn by Maduro point to the fact that the Constituent Assembly could worsen repression against protests, which have left over 120 people dead in nearly four months, increasing jail sentences and causes for arrest. “Reestablishing peace” was the president’s repeated objective during his campaign.

The opposition has already announced new protests, including a rejection of the Constituent Assembly demonstration on Thursday.

One thought on “Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, Maduro’s Controversial Gamble

  • Pity the people of Venezuela. Megalomania rules!

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