Maduro Says Vote On as Venezuela Opposition Calls 48-Hour Strike

BloombergBy Javiera Quiroga and Melissa Mittelman

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, defying a threat of U.S. sanctions and calls by his opponents for two days of general strikes this week, vowed to press on with a vote to elect a new national assembly and rewrite the constitution.

“Who doesn’t go vote next Sunday is hurting the Republic of Venezuela, is hurting the right for peace, because what we are deciding here next week is between peace or war, violence or the constituent assembly,” according to a statement issued Sunday.

Maduro reinforced his determination to hold the July 30 vote after Venezuela’s opposition party called for a 48-hour general strike in Caracas Wednesday and Thursday.

Deputy Simon Calzadilla, speaking for Unidad Democratica, urged Venezuelans to go to their electoral centers Monday at 10 a.m. to place protest banners and signs that say “in my voting place there won’t be a constituent assembly.”

Calzadilla, in an email, also asked citizens to rally to Caracas next Friday to “demand massively” that Maduro’s government halt the assembly vote.

“If the regime doesn’t cancel this fraud by Friday, the party will inform of the actions it will behold on July 29 and 30, Calzadilla said in the statement. “Center by center, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood to defeat Maduro’s proposal.”

Maduro has signaled he would proceed despite U.S. threats of “strong and swift economic actions” and a symbolic vote against it by 7.5 million Venezuelans who participated in an unsanctioned ballot. With the oil-exporting economy already in a tailspin, investors say some sort of ban on crude exports from Venezuela may force the country into default on its debt.

Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, called this upcoming week “crucial” for the country. In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Borges appealed for international help in stopping Maduro’s planned assembly and to lay the groundwork for a “real and deep negotiation with the participation of the international community.”

“Venezuela is not only a Venezuelan problem right now,” he said, noting widespread emigration. “We need the help from other democracies in order to change what we are living right now in Venezuela.”

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.