Venezuela one week away from election for constituent assembly

World Today

VENEZUELA-CRISIS-OPPOSITION-PROTESTAn opposition activist throws stones at riot police during clashes following a march towards the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in an offensive against President Maduro and his call for Constituent Assembly in Caracas on July 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

President Nicolas Maduro wants a vote to create a constituent assembly, a group that would be empowered to change the constitution.

That’s despite protests against his government that have led to almost 100 deaths. Stephen Gibbs reports from Caracas.

With one week to go before the government moves to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution, its opponents were on the streets again. The National Guard fired tear gas and pellets at protesters to prevented a relatively small march from reaching the city center.

There were several injuries including at least 8 journalists and a young man named Wuilly Arteaga. He is known as the ‘violinist of Caracas.’ He often plaid the national anthem in the midst of protests. He was injured, but soon afterwards, in hospital, he was playing again. “They are not going to frighten me”, he said.

President Nicolas Maduro says the only solution to this is his constituent assembly, an all-powerful body, to be elected next Sunday, which will have the power to reset the entire Venezuelan political system.

The opposition says the process is rigged, and will formalize dictatorial rule. It meanwhile has sworn in a rival, parallel Supreme Court – arguing the existing one is not independent.

The Maduro government on Saturday moved swiftly to detain one of the new judges – 32 others are understood to be in hiding.

The crisis is causing international concern. The regional group Mercosur has called for an end to violence, and has offered to mediate.

And the United States is hinting it may ban dollar transactions with PDVSA – the state oil company that provides 95 per cent of Venezuela’s foreign income.

The opposition said that it will be ratcheting up the pressure on the government in the coming days, by calling a 48-hour general strike, for Wednesday and Thursday.

Miguel Tinker Salas on Venezuela’s political crisis

To better understand Venezuela’s political crisis and more, CGTN’s Wang Guan talked with Miguel Tinker Salas from Claremont, California. He’s a professor of Latin American History at Pomona College.