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Issue #1789      August 9, 2017

Elections despite threats

In spite of threats from the Trump administration and sometimes violent demonstrations and a boycott by the right wing opposition, the scheduled elections for Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly were held on July 30.

In the several days before the Sunday vote, and on Sunday itself, the opposition tried to create a situation of instability that would discourage turnout or even make the vote impossible. A call for a national strike by businesses flopped. But there was an uptick in the violence that the opposition has been fomenting since April. On Saturday, a “Bolivarian” (i.e. pro-government) candidate for one of the Constituent Assembly seats, José Felix Pineda, was murdered in his home in Ciudad Bolivar, by parties as yet not apprehended.

Before the vote, US President Donald Trump had demanded that the plans for a Constituent Assembly be cancelled, and slapped economic sanctions on 13 top Venezuelan officials, including Lucena of the Elections Council. He threatened to apply even harsher sanctions if the vote was not stopped. The Bolivian, Cuban and Nicaraguan governments, however, immediately recognised the Venezuelan vote.

Other countries that condemned the Constituent Assembly vote include reliably right-wing governments in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Costa Rica, plus Chile. All but Chile have worse human rights records and more dubious democratic credentials than Venezuela does, and this applies to Trump’s United States of America also, where vote suppression efforts are in full swing and civil liberties are in the cross-hairs.

Why the government of Chile, headed by Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party, has lent its name to this charade is not explained. But the Communist Party of Chile, a coalition partner in the government, has strongly denounced outside interference and supports Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly.

The Constituent Assembly’s 545 members will immediately take up the task of reviewing the country’s constitution and laws, and enacting changes they feel will help get the country out of its current political and economic difficulties. Some supporters of the government, including the Communist Party and environmentalist groups, are hoping the new body can push the country in the direction of more direct participatory democracy, and get it out of a chronic situation which long preceded the coming to power of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, of excessive dependence on the sale of oil to raise revenues and also on the importation of many articles that theoretically could be produced by Venezuela itself.

People’s World

Next article – Killing chemical protections

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