Opposition leader and Voluntad Popular (VP) head Leopoldo Lopez hosted former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero in his home in Caracas yesterday, where Lopez is currently serving house arrest. The meeting–which was allegedly attended by several other opposition leaders–appears to be the latest attempt by Zapatero to kick-start a dialogue with the PSUV as the July 30 Constituent Assembly election looms ever closer.
The meeting was confirmed by National Assembly vice president and VP second-in-command Freddy Guevara, who tweeted a series of messages last night on the event. Through the messages, Guevara attempted to quell rumours that Zapatero might have brokered a deal with the opposition to cancel this week’s protest actions, which include a 48-hour general strike set to start tomorrow and a massive rally in Caracas on Friday.
The messages read:
Rumours are killed with information and transparency, so I will send you all the following messages.
1. As always, Leopoldo has asked me to provide clear and direct information about his meeting [with Zapatero] at his home and has called for the National Strike [for Wednesday] and the Toma de Caracas [rally in Caracas on Friday].
2. He told Zapatero about the people’s demands: to [postpone] the Constituent Assembly and to respect the people’s decision taken on July 16 [via the plebiscite].
3. He also spoke about the great level of conflict that could arise from the fraudulent National Constituent Assembly, and we made it clear that the only one responsible for that would be Maduro.
4. I hope that someone in the regime will be reasonable enough to suspend the National Constituent Assembly, but we cannot let our guard down: our strength is in the streets!
5. Speaking on behalf of myself, Leopoldo and the [opposition], we want to stress the following: general strike on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday… everyone to Caracas!
The opposition has been steadfast in its rejection of the Constituent Assembly, which has added fuel to the fire that is the protest movement that began on April 1.
Commentators have speculated in recent days that Maduro might be willing to postpone the July 30 vote in exchange for concessions from the opposition, which makes Zapatero’s visit to Lopez’s home all the more noteworthy.
Supreme Court Removes Opposition Mayor from Office, Sentences Him to 15 Months in Prison
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, issued a ruling today in which it ordered the removal of Gustavo Marcano from the office of Mayor of Lecheria, Anzoategui state, as well as his immediate arrest. The Court also sentenced him to 15 months in prison.
The TSJ’s decision is based on the finding that Marcano is in contempt of two Court orders issued in late May demanding that he essentially put an end to anti-government protests in the city. Since the protests in Lecheria have continued since the issuing of the order, the TSJ ruled today that Marcano had ignored the order.
Marcano’s hearing, which he did not attend, lasted less than one hour.
Marcano, a member of the opposition, reacted to the ruling in defiance today through a video that he posted on Twitter. In the video, Marcano explains that he will ignore the Supreme Court’s decision, since the appointment of new magistrates on Friday means that those who issued today’s ruling did so illegally.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Marcano: This past July 16, more than 7 million Venezuelans gave the National Assembly a clear mandate and rejected the fraud that is the Constituent Assembly. [The mandate was] to assign, according to the Constitution, the new magistrates to the Supreme Court. Our deputies did their job, and that is why today we are declaring that we are ignoring the people who are usurping and illegitimately sitting on the Constitution Chamber of the Supreme Court, in adherence with Articles 333 and 350 of our Constitution.
We will not abide by their ruling. I want to stress to the residents of Lecheria and Anzoategui state that I will continue to exercise the duties to which I was elected. Wherever I may find myself fighting against the persecution of this dictatorship, I will be carrying out my duties and fighting for change and freedom in Venezuela. Onward, always, with God and the Virgin of the Valley.
This is not the first time that the PSUV-controlled National Assembly has removed an opposition mayor from office on the excuse that they were in contempt. The mayor of San Diego, Carabobo state–Enzo Scarano–was sentenced to prison in March 2014 under similar circumstances, as was Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of San Cristobal, Tachira state.
Lucena: “If You Don’t Like the Election, Don’t Vote”
The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, held a press conference today in which she openly encouraged Venezuelans who do not agree with the Constituent Assembly to abstain from voting in this Sunday’s election.
If you don’t like the election, don’t vote.
Lucena’s comments are shocking because as the head of Venezuela’s electoral authority, Lucena is tasked with working to ensure citizen participation in all democratic processes, not to discourage or prevent it.
On the possibility that some of the country’s 14,000 voting centres may simply refuse to open their doors on Sunday to receive electors, Lucena said that those centres would be removed from the CNE’s list of voting locations for future elections.
Lucena also had advice for Venezuelans who, wishing to cast their ballot in the election, are prevented from doing so due to threats or violence. Lucena said:
In the case of violence or danger [of violence] so that you cannot exercise your right to vote, you can vote in any centre in your municipality. You cannot go to another municipality [to vote].
Maduro Launches New Threat to Venezuelans for July 30 Election
Speaking during a televised address this afternoon, Maduro announced that voters would be asked to present their carnet de la patria (“Fatherland I.D”) when they cast their ballot in the Constituent Assembly election on July 30. According to Maduro, the I.D. must be presented at the time of voting in order for the government to track who voted and who didn’t during the election.
The carnet de la patria was introduced earlier this year in order to serve as an all-in-one card for Venezuelans receiving subsidized assistance from the government, be it in the form of housing, pension or food. Ever since its launch, critics have pointed out that the regime has used the carnet de la patria to extort people into joining the PSUV or one of its umbrella organizations or risk losing access to subsidized programs.
Venezuelan law states that any Venezuelan citizen over the age of 18 can take part in electoral processes. In For the entirety of the democratic period in Venezuela, nationality and age have been proven at voting centres by simply presenting one’s national I.D. card, making the carnet de la patria requirement for the July 30 election unprecedented. The requirement also violates the principle of the secret ballot.
This is not the first time that Maduro has threatened Venezuelans into voting in the Constituent Assembly election. On July 6, Maduro said in a televised address that all public employees had to vote in the election, and that regime bureaucrats would crosscheck voter rolls to make sure that every public employee had voted “without excuses”.
Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Erika Ender Call Out Regime for Stealing “Despacito”
Yesterday, Maduro hosted a televised event to promote the Constituent Assembly. During the event, Maduro and his audience danced to a pro-Constituent Assembly song set to the tune of Despacito, the hit song from Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee.
Below, a video of that broadcast (NOTE: The video is likely to be taken down soon, as Sony appears to be flagging it for copyright infringement):
The song’s three co-writers–Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Erika Ender–have lashed out at the Maduro regime not only for stealing their song, but for using it to help promote the ongoing violation of human rights and the rule of law in the country.
Through his Instagram account, Fonsi said:
At no time I have been consulted or have I authorized the use or change of ‘Despacito’ lyrics for political ends, less so in the context of the deplorable situation affecting a country that I love so much as #Venezuela
My music is for all of those that want to listen to it and enjoy it, not to use it as propaganda that tries to manipulate the will of the people that are crying out for their freedom and a better future
Daddy Yankee also reacted to the stealing of the song by saying:
My music is for all of those who want to listen to it and enjoy it, not for it to be used as propaganda to try to manipulate the will of a people who is screaming out for freedom and a better future.
[Stealing the song] doesn’t compare to the crimes that you [Maduro] commit and have committed in Venezuela.
On her Instagram account, Ender wrote:
I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS. I cannot see people I adore so much in so much pain. A fighting people, a people with an iron will… Good people, who do not stop fighting for freedom and the right to free speech… I love Venezuela, a land that has truly given us brothers. Brothers who suffer because of the situation there.
To see song which I co-authored used without permission to promote campaigns linked with a regime that is so disliked [and that is causing] a people to suffer, far from making me happy, makes me indignant and I DO NOT AGREE with its use.
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