Venezuelan opposition to hold symbolic vote on constituent assembly

World Today

The silhouettes of anti-government protesters are seen through a Venezuelan flag during a call by the opposition to block roads for 10 hours in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, July 10, 2017. Opposition protests demanding new elections and decrying triple-digit inflation, food shortages and worsening crime continue as President Nicolas Maduro pushes forward with his plan to draft a new constitution. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela’s opposition will hold a symbolic vote on Sunday. It’s an opportunity to reject President Nicolas Maduro’s plans for a constituent assembly.

That would have the power to rewrite the constitution, empowering Maduro.

CGTN’S Juan Carlos Lamas has more from Caracas.

It will be unofficial, and there’s no mechanism to enforce it, but preparations were well underway for the vote on Sunday, with members of the opposition swearing in election personnel and handing out practice ballots.

“We just want to show to the Venezuelan government, that 90 percent of people living here disagree with the so-called constituent assembly. That’s why we’ll be voting, to say no to that decision,” said Carlos Bergara, a pensioner.

Voters will be asked three “yes” or “no” questions: Do they reject the creation of a constituent national assembly; do they demand the armed forces obey and defend the current constitution; and do they support the formation of a new government of national unity.

“We, as Venezuelans, we are all going to vote against this fraudulent constituent assembly. I’m 74 years old and never thought I would need to struggle to find food and medicine. This must end,” said Alida Belisario, a homemaker.

Long lines and chronic shortages of food and medicine are just some of the problems facing the country. Venezuela’s inflation rate hit 800 percent last year, and Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

President Maduro, who has the support of millions of people, said that he has a plan to end the crisis, starting with the election of a constituent assembly at the end of the month. His government said that the vote on Sunday is illegal, but opposition leaders begged to differ.

“This process is established in article 71 of our constitution. It doesn’t say the electoral board is the only one with powers to control elections. That’s why we take on this voting process which is completely legal, where people can decide the future of Venezuela,” Enmanuel Jimenez, a Caracas Councillor.

Opposition leaders set up more than two-thousand polls across the country, and they’re also making plans for Venezuelans living abroad to vote.

The ballots will be hand-counted by volunteers, and then destroyed, to protect voters from political persecution. Opposition supporters said they’re hopeful their message will be loud and clear, and their symbolic vote will be a positive step to bring Venezuela back from the brink.