Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo Lopez’s opposition party, began collecting signatures today with the aim of forming a constituent assembly. The formation of a constituent assembly would allow – the opposition hopes – for the legal removal of Maduro from his post as president.
The process is expected to be extremely difficult. First, in order for the constituent assembly to be formed, 15% of registered voters have to vote in favour of it, which equals approximately three million signatures. Second, not all of the 20 or so opposition parties in the country agree that this is a good idea, and so it is likely that not all opposition supporters will lend their vote to the initiative.
The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2019. While a constituent assembly could remove Maduro from office before that time, many opposition supporters believe that the best way forward is to defeat the PSUV in the parliamentary elections next year.
The Venezuelan constitution allows for constituent assemblies to be formed if enough electors vote in favour of one. A constituent assembly is a powerful body, whose goal it is to reform government.
In Venezuela, a constituent assembly like the one Voluntad Popular is trying to form was created in 1999 on the initiative of Hugo Chavez. The 1999 constituent assembly adopted the country’s current constitution.
CNE: Signature Drive is Illegal
The Consejo Nacional Electoral, the body in charge of carrying out the electoral process in Venezuela, said today that Voluntad Popular‘s drive to collect signatures to form a constituent assembly is illegal.
The organization released a statement today saying that any vote-collection activity must be carried out under its authority. Without the CNE, any votes or signatures collected are simply void.
The CNE statement reads:
Any collection of signatures destined to activate referendum, consulting or constituent processes must be subject to the norms and procedures established for that end (… ) without intervention from the Electoral Power [the CNE], [collecting signatures] lacks all legality.
Government Occupies Clorox Factories
Five days after Clorox announced that it was ceasing all operations in Venezuela and selling its assets, the Venezuelan government has carried out what it calls a “temporary occupation” of the company’s factories.
The government claims to be upset that Clorox left the country, leaving workers suddenly unemployed.
Vice-President Jorge Arreaza spoke to state television from the grounds of the Clorox factory in Santa Lucia, Miranda state, and said:
The revolutionary government and organized labourers have come here to carry out justice. Investigations will be opened into the people who have committed this crime… they [Clorox] left Venezuela from one day to the next. The only thing left is a law firm representing them. They [the workers] lost their jobs because [Clorox] felt like it.
Join us so that we can show everyone that we can do this. The companies the government takes over do not die.
Arreaza also suggested that Clorox was somehow involved in the so-called “economic war” being waged on several fronts against the Venezuelan government, saying:
Is it any coincidence that they left just when we have scarcity? It’s just an excuse to harm us.
Clorox explained earlier this week that it was being forced to leave the country due to heavy-handed economic restrictions and economic instability in Venezuela.