On the eve of the most important election the country has seen in nearly a generation, Venezuelans hunkered down for what could turn out to be a turbulent few days even by the country’s standards. With the Maduro regime set to hold the Constituent Assembly election tomorrow, hopes for a last-minute deal between the regime and the opposition to stop the vote from happening have essentially vaporized by now.
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), Venezuela’s official opposition bloc, called on all Venezuelans today to take to the streets of their towns and cities tomorrow to reject the election, which it claims will grant Maduro dictatorial powers and bring a formal end to the democratic era in Venezuela.
During a press conference earlier today, the MUD leadership instructed Venezuelans living outside of major urban centres to begin protesting in their towns starting at 4:00 AM tomorrow. In Caracas, the MUD has organized a protest on the Francisco Fajardo highway in the neighbourhood of Los Ruices starting at 10:00 AM.
As in previous days, protesters and opposition supporters clashed for most of the day all around the country. In Ejido, Merida state, protesters broke into an electoral centre and destroyed equipment that was going to be used in tomorrow’s vote:
The image below shows a National Guard truck on fire in Ejido. It’s not clear from the picture if the truck has been disabled, or if it has just been hit with a Molotov cocktail:
The video below was recorded in Ureña, Tachira state. It shows fierce fighting between protesters and security forces:
Maduro Says Agreement “Almost” Reached, Threatens to End Public Ministry
Speaking during a televised event this afternoon alongside a group of high-ranking PSUV officials, Maduro said that the PSUV had “almost” reached a deal with the opposition regarding the Constituent Assembly, but would not specify exactly what the deal was for or what it entailed. In recent days, there had been speculation that the ruling party would try to negotiate with the opposition in order to have the Constituent Assembly cancelled, but Maduro’s comments suggest that these efforts failed.
When the Constituent Assembly begins to meet–likely next week–it will have unlimited power to re-shape the Venezuelan state, including by creating or eliminating institutions. Maduro hinted that one of the assembly’s first tasks would be to put an end to the Public Ministry, which is headed by a Luisa Ortega Diaz, a vocal and powerful critic of Maduro.
Delcy [Rodriguez, former Foreign Minister and candidate for the Constituent Assembly] has already told me about the disaster that is the Public Ministry, which is responsible for all the impunity [for crimes committed in Venezuela]. [There has to be] a transformation at the Public Ministry. I have no doubt at this point that this is the first step that we have to take in order to find justice.
In recent months, the Public Ministry has become the site of institutional resistance against the Maduro regime, as attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz has become increasingly critical of Maduro.
Earlier in the day, Ortega Diaz said that the Constituent Assembly would bring an end to the republican era in Venezuela and signal the start of a dictatorship. Ortega Diaz said:
On Sunday we will decide if we continue to exist as a republic, or if we install an authoritarian system [around Maduro].
Colombia Will Not Recognize Tomorrow’s Vote
The government of Colombia announced last night that it would not recognize the results of tomorrow’s Constituent Assembly vote, casting Venezuela’s closest neighbour on a collision course with the Maduro regime.
Citing the fact that Maduro imposed the vote on Venezuela illegally, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said:
The Constituent Assembly has a spurious origin, and as a consequence, we cannot recognize its results.
What we do continue to insist on is a peaceful solution, one that is quick and democratic, so that this nation that we love so much–and here I want to express once more my solidarity with the Venezuelan people–can exit soon from these dark times.
El Aissami Responds to Hidden Wealth Claims, Urges US To Donate Money
Vice President Tareck El Aissami responded yesterday to claims from the U.S. Department of State earlier this week that he has at least $500 million in assets stashed away in the United States. El Aissami, who was put on a U.S. sanctions list last February, alleged earlier this year that he had no money or property in the United States.
Last night, El Aissami called the Department of States’ $500 million claim a lie, and said that it was part of a “miserable campaign” by the United States to attack the Bolivarian Revolution and its supporters.
El Aissami also dared the U.S. government to donate the money to charity, saying:
If you say that it’s mine, then take that money and give it to the poor in the U.S. (…) since the Trump government doesn’t care about the poor, if you claim that money exists, then give it to the poor there.
Survey: Nearly 3 in 4 Venezuelans Oppose Constituent Assembly
On the eve of the Constituent Assembly vote, the results of a survey from the Datanalasis firm confirm what weeks of protests had suggested: that Venezuelans overwhelmingly reject the Constituent Assembly, with nearly three in four opposing the measure.
Below, some of the survey’s results:
- 72.7% do not agree with holding the Constituent Assembly. This includes 91.8% of all opposition supporters, and 8.9% of all PSUV supporters.
- 74.3% said that they do not believe that, despite the regime’s claims, the Constituent Assembly will help to solve the country’s problems.
- When asked, “Why has President Maduro called for the Constituent Assembly?”:
- 51.7% said “because it will give Maduro more power” to rule.
- 17.6% said “[so that the regime can avoid] having regional and presidential elections”.
- Only 16.2% agreed with the regime, saying that the Constituent Assembly would “bring peace and stability to the country”.
The survey was conducted between July 8 and 19, and sampled 1,000 homes. It is accurate within +/- 3.04%.
Iberia, Air France Cancel Weekends Flights to Venezuela
Following the halting of all operations by Avianca and Delta earlier this week, two more international carriers have announced that they will halt operations in the country this weekend out of fears that the violence that has gripped the country since April will spiral out of control with tomorrow’s Constituent Assembly vote.
Iberia and Air France have announced that they will not fly to or from Venezuela this weekend. Iberia has cancelled its weekly Madrid-Caracas-Madrid flight tomorrow, and Air France has cancelled flights from Paris to Caracas on Sunday and Monday.
The two European carriers are the latest to join a long and growing list of airlines that have stopped altogether or partially cut service to Venezuela, including United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Aeromexico, and Alitalia.
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