CARACAS, Venezuela, Tuesday July 18, 2017 – Venezuela’s opposition has called for a 24-hour national strike on Thursday in protest against President Nicolás Maduro’s plans for a new constituent assembly that would have the power to scrap the opposition-controlled National Assembly and rewrite the constitution.
This follows a non-binding opposition-organized referendum on the plans on Sunday, in which the opposition sadi 7.6 million Venezuelans voted. Academics who monitored the poll said that nearly all those who voted rejected the new assembly proposed by Maduro and backed a call for elections before they are constitutionally due in 2019.
Opposition leader Freddy Guevara, speaking on behalf of the Democratic Unity coalition, said the Venezuelan people had given a mandate, rejecting “the fraudulent proposal of Nicolás Maduro”.
“The regime must understand that we won’t allow the destruction of Venezuela to happen. The government must pull out its proposal of constitutional fraud,” he said.
“We call on the whole country this Thursday to join massively and peacefully a national civic strike of 24 hours as a mechanism of pressure and preparation for the definitive escalation which will be next week.”
He said that tomorrow, the opposition would take the first steps to set up a national unity government and on Friday it would appoint new judges.
Meantime, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada has criticized Sunday’s referendum vote, describing it as “a grotesque experiment of media manipulation”.
“It has no legal validity,” he said. “No one knows, or will ever know, how many people have taken part.”
The government said the referendum was riddled with fraud and that people were able to vote many times at different polling stations.
President Maduro dismissed the vote as “meaningless”.