CARACAS – The Venezuelan opposition is pushing a referendum to be held on July 16 so that the public may choose “the country’s future,” a vote in which the citizenry will be able to say whether they approve or reject the assembly convened by the government to rewrite the constitution, the head of the opposition-controlled Parliament said on Monday.
“Let it be the people who decide whether to convene and back the renewal of the public branches ... as well as the forming of a national unity government and the holding of transparent and free elections,” Julio Borges said.
The third issue proposed for the referendum concerns the role the public demands that its officials and the armed forces play in “restoring the constitutional thread” that, the opposition says, the government has broken.
In a ceremony accompanied by top opposition leaders, Borges announced that he will ask the chamber over which he presides to begin the “consultation process,” basing that move on Article 71 of the Constitution, which authorizes the National Assembly to call a referendum on “issues of special national importance.”
The opposition leader also resorted to Article 350, which sets forth the right of the people to refuse to recognize the government, should it “go against” democratic principles and guarantees.
Borges called the activation of the mechanism leading to the referendum an element of the “democratic process of resuming the Constitution,” adding that the constitutional assembly pushed by the government is an attempt to “convert into something permanent and irreversible ... (the) violations of human rights” in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan legislature declared itself to be in rebellion against the government, taking the stance that President Nicolas Maduro has violated the Constitution with certain decisions and measures, the latest of these being the launching of the constitutional assembly process which the opposition deems to be a “fraud” to keep the socialist Chavista model in power “forever.”
Venezuelans will be called to the polls on July 30 to select the members of the assembly that will draft the new Constitution, but the opposition has announced that it will boycott the vote.
Maduro has said that the security forces will arrest anyone who attempts to sabotage the vote.
Since April 1, Venezuela has been roiled by a wave of pro- and anti-government demonstrations, some of which have turned violent leaving at least 85 dead and more than 1,000 injured, according to the government.