For the second time in as many days, the streets of Caracas was forced into gridlock starting in the early morning as protesters erected barricades at crucial intersections throughout the city.
Today’s protests follow similar demonstrations in Caracas yesterday, which have apparently been spur on by the looming July 30 election for Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, which many Venezuelans fear as a point of no return for Maduro’s drive towards authoritarianism.
EFE spoke to the owner of a shoe store in the Los Palos Grandes area of Caracas this morning about today’s barricade protests in the city. As the man dragged a tree branch across a road, he told EFE:
We have to protest every day because there are less than two weeks left before Maduro’s Constituent Assembly begins, and we have to stop it.
Below, barricades in the Colinas de Bello Monte neighbourhood of Caracas:
A group of protesters built a small barricade and sat on the Francisco de Miranda avenue in Los Corjitos:
Barricades and rubble on a street in El Paraiso:
In the Quinta Crespo neighbourhood of the city, security forces and protesters clashed starting early in the morning:
The effect of the barricades on traffic in the city was multiplied by a spontaneous protest by the city’s public transit drivers, which affected 90% of buses in the greater Caracas region. The bus strike occurred due to an ongoing dispute between the national government and the bus drivers’ union, which claims that the government-set bus fares are not enough to cover basic expenses like repair parts for vehicles.
The current bus fare currently costs Bs. 150, but the drivers want it raised to Bs. 300.
Regime Inspectors To Crack Down on Businesses That Close Tomorrow
On Monday, the opposition leadership announced a “paro civico” [roughly, “general strike”] for tomorrow, July 20. To participate in the strike, Venezuelans are being asked to stay home from work and school. The strike strike is the first of its kind convened by the opposition this year.
This afternoon, Minister of Work Nestor Ovalles revealed that regime inspectors will be deployed throughout the country to record and sanction any business that answers the opposition’s calls to close tomorrow. Ovalles explained that the purpose of the inspections would be to ensure that the right to work was not infringed by the strike action.
We will not allow this [strike], and we will be on the look-out for any unscheduled closure that violates the right to work….
It is not clear what sanctions, if any, business that participate in tomorrow’s strike might face.
MUD Announces Details of National Unity Government
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) held a press conference today in which it gave some details about the national unity government, the name that the opposition has given to the hypothetical post-Maduro government.
National Assembly deputy Henry Ramos Allup said that the incoming unity government’s priorities would be on social justice and the opening of a humanitarian corridor to bring much-needed food and medicine into the country. Allup also said that the new government would be a decidedly civilian one in contrast to the Maduro regime, the central pillar of which is the “civil-military union”, a state philosophy that calls for the blurring of the boundaries between the military and civilian spheres.
On more practical notes, Allup also revealed part of the plan regarding the role of PSUV officials in the national unity government. Allup said that the new government would respect an individuals’ right to choose their own political affiliation, and that any PSUV official holding office at the time that the new government is elected would be allowed to serve out the rest of the term so long as they were not involved in human rights violations during the PSUV era.
The [MUD] stresses its sacred promise to respect those who have different political views. There will never be political retaliation or persecution against those who belong to political parties different from those of the unity government.
Allup also said that the presidential candidate for the next elections–whenever they might be–would be elected through a primary process, and that once elected they would not run for re-election.
To read the document that the MUD released today on the nature of the national unity government, click here.
AG Diaz: Venezuelan State is “Abnormal”
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz spoke today on the “abnormal” nature of the Venezuelan state under Maduro and the PSUV, citing corruption and rampant discrimination against opposition supporters as just two of the problems of governance in Venezuela.
Speaking in a television interview that aired on the Venevision network today, Ortega Diaz focused her attention on the CLAP system of food distribution as a prominent example of the dysfunctional nature of the Maduro government. Ortega Diaz pointed out that the CLAP system–which provides subsidized food to needy Venezuelans–is often used as a political weapon against Venezuelans, saying:
We’ve received complaints that [people are] forced to sign up for certain events. If they don’t, they take away their CLAP bags, and they threaten with cutting them off from other [social programs] that they get from the government as citizens. The complaints are important because this is like slavery. It is perverse to punish people and to hold them in a state of permanent threat.
Ortega Diaz, once a loyal member of the PSUV, has publicly broken from party ranks in recent months. On the possibility that she may be impeached and removed from office in retaliation for her stance, Ortega Diaz said:
As long as I am attorney general I will continue to fight. They will not stop me. I will continue to speak out as far as the Constitution and the law will allow me. I do not think that they will stop me.
ICC Accepts Maduro Case
The International Criminal Court (ICC) formally accepted a case today filed yesterday by legislators from Chile and Colombia against Maduro, whom the lawmakers accuse of committing crimes against humanity including torture, mass deportation and apartheid.
In a written statement to Spain’s EFE, the ICC said that it had accepted the case, and that according to standard procedure would proceed to review the material “in the appropriate manner”.
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