The Mauricio Macri administration was among the numerous governments around the world that refused to acknowledge the election of Venezuela’s Constitutional Assembly, held yesterday by Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro.
The Argentine Foreign Ministry, led by Jorge Faurie, issued a release yesterday afternoon stating that “the Argentine government regrets that the Venezuelan government, refusing to hear the calls of the international community, including the countries of the Mercosur [trading bloc], moved on with the election of a constitutional assembly that does not fulfill the requisites imposed by the country’s Constitution.”
— CancilleríaArgentina (@CancilleriaARG) July 30, 2017
The governments of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Panama and Peru, as well as the European Parliament, also issued statements of the kind. Moreover, the US Department of State Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, anticipated that the Donald Trump administration could impose new sanctions on the Maduro administration or its officials.
“We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the National Constituent Assembly as a result of today’s flawed election,” says the release, which goes on to encourage “governments in the hemisphere and around the world to take strong action to hold accountable those who undermine democracy, deny human rights, bear responsibility for violence and repression, or engage in corrupt practices.”
The crisis in Venezuela took another turn for the worse yesterday, as the Nicolás Maduro regime held the election to choose the members of a Constitutional Assembly that the opposition deems illegitimate. The deep divide between the two camps was evident during the day: both provided diametrically opposed information regarding subjects as sensitive as the number of votes cast and the number of people who lost their lives as a result of the clashes between the two factions, in the context of the street protests the opposition has carried out at an almost daily basis since the beginning of April.
Regarding the first issue, the Maduro regime claimed that over eight million Venezuelans, or 41.5 percent of the people able to go to the polls, voted to elect members of the Assembly. “This is the largest number of votes the Chavismo got in the history of the Bolivarian revolution,” Maduro said in an event held yesterday night.
The Venezuelan President went on to take on the opposition leaders and threatened to strip their legal immunity. He also “asked” the attendants what he should do with the Prosecutor’s Office, considering that General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz became critical of his administration after he announced his intention of having the assembly reform the Constitution. “[should I] immediately restructure it? declare it on emergency and take over so there’s justice?” Maduro “wondered.”
In stark contrast, opposition leaders assured that, actually, about two and a half million people voted yesterday. “We had a day with a lot of tension. It happened what we expected: Maduro’s government provided numbers that aren’t true,” said Caracas Mayor Helen Fernández in a radio interview.
As a result, the camp’s representatives called for a new march to protest the “fraudulent process” and the “massacre” that took place yesterday, as at least 16 people lost their lives as a result of the repression by the military and paramilitary forces that answer to the President. This last figure was provided by Henrique Capriles, Governor of the Miranda State, when calling for the march.
The 545 members of the Constitutional Assembly are set to meet in the next days — according to the law it should be on August 3rd, but government representatives said it could be before — to begin drafting a new Constitution that would replace the one promoted by late President Hugo Chávez in 1999. The Assembly will be able to reform the country’s institutions at will and session for a period of time set by its own members.
The body, which will wield more power than the parliament and even the president himself, will also be able to postpone this year’s regional and municipal elections and next year’s presidential elections. Opposition leaders assure this is one of the Assembly’s main goals, as it allows Maduro to stay in an office they claim he would lose should the elections be held.
The Assembly is set to session permanently in the oval room of the legislative palace, right across from the National Assembly (the parliament), where the opposition holds a majority. Since the opposition considers the Assembly to be less than legitimate, the palace is likely to become a legal – and probably verbal – battlefield. In fact, head of the National Assembly Julio Borges anticipated that the body he leads will not leave the palace to avoid clashing with the other Assembly.
High-ranking members of the Maduro camp, such as Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez, President of the National Electoral College Tibisay Lucena, former Head of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello and even Maduro’s wife and son are some of the candidates for the assembly. The government didn’t clear any opposition member to run.