Venezuela enters crisis week as vote for new constituent assembly approaches

CNBC-01Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is pressing ahead with a controversial election to form a new government that opponents and analysts fear will damage the country’s democracy and allow him to cement his leadership.

The election for the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) will be held on Sunday, July 30, and opposition leaders are planning a week of protests, including a two-day national strike starting on Wednesday, to oppose the election. More than 100 people have died since April in anti-Maduro protests and hundreds more have been injured and arrested, according to Reuters.

The ANC is expected be heavily made up of Maduro supporters, as it over-represents territories and sectors of the economy more likely to support him. Once formed, the ANC will be able to rewrite the country’s constitution and will supersede any other legislative body, including the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

“The establishment of an alternative institution would result in the rubberstamping of new laws and effectively eliminate political dissent in the country,” Joel Ross, Latin America analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via email. …

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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 elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. 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, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

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 American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.