Venezuelans Gird for Sunday’s Controversial Vote to Rewrite Constitution

MIAMI — Venezuela’s crisis is deepening ahead of President Nicolás Maduro’s controversial plans to elect a powerful new Constituent Assembly on Sunday that critics call a plan to consolidate power and create a dictatorship. Maduro says the 545-member assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions, will bring peace to the country.

Even though the government banned protests from Friday to Tuesday, there were clashes between the opposition and the authorities in the nation’s capital, Caracas. Many fear this will escalate the violence in a country already in a volatile situation.

Caracas resident Gabriel Viloria said by telephone he is planning to protest Sunday like he has since the demonstrations began in April. “I am not scared. I’m more afraid of losing my country,” the civil engineer said. “There is no money and the cost of living gets more expensive by the day.”

Sunday’s election has been broadly condemned by countries around the world who say it will weaken democracy. The Constituent Assembly would have the power to shut down the existing opposition-led legislature.

Related: U.S. Slaps Sanctions On Venezuela to Stop Constitution Rewrite

Some point out that Venezuelan law and institutions have been profoundly weakened. Frank Mora is a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration who heads Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center. He said the assembly “does not really constitutionally or politically mark a point of no return, because I believe that happened a long time ago.”




Image: People walk through a barricade after a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas

People walk through a barricade after a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 29, 2017.