Venezuelan opposition hold symbolic vote to pressure President Maduro

World Today

Venezuela referendum

The polls closed for a symbolic vote held by the Venezuelan opposition. It’s an opportunity to reject President Nicolas Maduro’s plans for a constituent assembly.

That group would have the power to rewrite the constitution which will empower Maduro. During the vote, a gun attack killed at least one person at a polling place. CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.

Beginning early on a Sunday morning, people started to gather across Venezuela to vote in an unofficial referendum against President Maduro’s plan to create a constituent assembly.

The vote, which is not sanctioned by the government and the electoral authorities call illegal, was another way for Venezuelans to demand change, according to the opposition.

Opposition leaders acknowledge that there’s no real mechanism to enforce it. “Today we are showing to the government that we want a change, we are tired of living under a regime which led us to misery,” said a merchant at one of the polls.

Voters were asked if they support Maduro’s plan for a constituent assembly and to change the constitution, and whether they would back a unity government. Votes will be hand-counted and then destroyed to protect voters from political persecution.

Thousands of opposition supporters have taken to the streets nearly every day for more than three months to protest against what they call a dictatorial government. They blame Maduro’s government for triple digit inflation, severe shortages of food and medicine and a spiraling crime rate in Venezuela.

Maduro criticized the referendum process, saying it was illegal for not having the electoral board’s approval. He called on his supporters to participate in a simulated vote prior to official elections in two weeks.

The counter-move was designed to demonstrate the support Maduro insists he still has among millions of Venezuelans. “We are demonstrating democracy, we need to understand that the Constituent Assembly will be the only way to achieve peace,” said Katy Jaimes, a candidate for the United Socialist Party.

President Maduro claimed that, with or without a referendum, he will move forward to create a constituent assembly and said it’s the only way the restore peace in the country. But opposition leaders say they won’t allow that to happen, and that Maduro must acknowledge there are millions of voices who want to be heard.

Jason Marczak on Venezuela’s symbolic referendum for new national assembly

For more about Venezuela’s referendum for a new national assembly, CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke with Jason Marczak, Director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiaitive at the Atlantic Council.