By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- National Guard kicked down the doors of the 150-years-old Eliptical Hall at the Legislative Palace in downtown Caracas so that the delegates for the Constituent Assembly could have a place to meet, as the lawmakers in the National Assembly across the yard held on to their seats in the main floor, rejecting the new body as fraudulent.
It was a fitting image: 153 demonstrators and security forces have been killed in four months of protests, during a Constitutional crisis of which the Constituent Assembly has been only the latest chapter. And the first thing the Constituent Assembly delegates did was bring back in pictures of Hugo Chavez, which were removed when the opposition won the National Assembly in 2015.
The 545 delegates to the Constituent were elected Sunday, during one of the most violent days in recent Venezuelan history, with 16 demonstrators and security forces dying.
In spite of the violence and claims of fraud from the company that provided the voting software, hardware and technicians, the Constituent Assembly was seated. But not without the National Guard kicking down some doors and putting half of Caracas on lockdown to prevent more anti-Maduro riots.
More than 40 nations, including the Vatican, the United States and the European Union, denounced the Constituent elections. But to no avail: the Constituent is Maduro’s protest, his only way to maintain some semblance of power after losing the National Assembly in late 2015 by a landslide.
In spite of declining popularity (the latest polls put his approval rate in the single digits) Maduro is, once again, getting away with something and the opposition looks hapless, but it is costing him more and more every time.
Two days ago the U.S. placed him in the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as a Specially Designated National, joining another 30-something current and former members of his administration, including his Vice President and the head justice of the Supreme Court.
The U.S. has warned that it would sanction anyone who participates in the Constituent Assembly, meaning that Maduro's wife Cilia Flores and son Nicolasito will also soon join him on that OFAC list, along with Diosdado Cabello and Delcy Rodriguez.
Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez was elected unopposed to be the head of the Constituent Assembly, with former Minister Aristobulo Isturiz selected as First Vice President and former Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez elected as Second Vice President.
So far, force has worked in Maduro’s favor, as it did for Chavez before him: Maduro managed to win a narrow election in 2013, violent riots in 2014, the loss of the legislative in 2015, halting the recall against him as well as state and city elections in 2016 through increasingly heavy-handed repression, mass arrests, extended censorship and threats.
Minors’ rights NGO Cecodap points out that, of the 150-plus victims of repression since April 1st, 22 have been minors. That is more than five times all of the security forces (National Guard and Police and local police departments) killed in all four months of protest (5).
Venezuela's Hydrogen Bomb - 30 June 2017 by Latin American Herald Tribune on Scribd
Venezuela: La 'Bomba de Hidrogena de Maduro' - 30 June 2017_ESP by Latin American Herald Tribune on Scribd