Venezuela: Maduro Calls for Popular Assembly to Create a New Constitution

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called this Monday May for a National Constituent Assembly, in accordance with Article 347 of the Constitution, with the aim of preserving the peace and stability of the nation.

“Today May 1st, I announce that, in use of my presidential powers and in accordance with article 347, I call upon the original constituent power so that the working class and the people, in a popular constituent process, can convene a National Constituent Assembly … It is the hour, it is the way”, President said during his address at the great march of the working class held in the Bolivar avenue, downtown Caracas.

Maduro detailed this process is initiated to empower people and to transform the State with the creation of a new Magna Carta deeply communal and working.

“I call on the original constituent power to achieve the peace the Republic needs, to defeat the fascist coup and to make the people, with their sovereignty, impose peace, harmony, true national dialogue,” added Maduro accompanied by the massive labor force that marched to celebrate Labor Day and the labor demands achieved during the Bolivarian Revolution.

Article 347 establishes the Venezuelan people “are the depository of the original constituent power” and consequently, it can call for the Constituent Assembly to “transform the State, create a new legal order and draft a new constitution.”

“We need to transform the State, especially that rotten National Assembly that is there … Everything we do will be to strengthen the pioneer constitution, the wise Bolivarian Constitution of 1999. We activated the constituent power for the people to take all the power of the country,” he said.

Maduro added this constituent must be citizen-inclusive, and anchored in the civil-military union and not of political parties or elites. “A civic, working, communal, missionary, peasant, feminist, youth, student, indigenous, but above all a working constituent assembly, deeply communal,” he emphasized.

The Constitution in Article 348 also grants the President the power to make the call. Moreover, Article 349 of the Constitution provides that President of the Republic “can not object to the new Constitution. The constituted powers can in no way impede the decisions of the Constituent Assembly. For purposes of the promulgation of the new Constitution, the same shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Venezuela or in the Gazette of the Constituent Assembly.”

Great Missions must be included in the Constitution

The President explained this call, to be made in the Council of Ministers as established by law, will have as a goal, in addition to consolidating peace and overcoming the continuing coup the opposition is mounting, “to perfect the economic, social and political system of the people.”

To this end, Maduro proposed that the great social missions, as well as the rights of Venezuelan youth, will form part of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

“I want to constitutionalize all missions and great missions, including the Housing Mission, so that no one will ever take them away from the people … I want to constitutionalize the Health Mission Barrio Adentro so that no one can ever privatize it. I want to constitutionalize the Clap and the Food Mission. I want to constitutionalize the Great Mission Barrio Nuevo, Barrio Tricolor, along with the Housing Mission, but also I want us to update ourselves and make a special chapter to get recorded the rights of youth and Venezuelan students,” he said.

He informed that in the next few hours he will deliver to the National Electoral Council the bases of this call, so that the people’s power can choose, by direct vote, the constituents who will create the new Constitution.

“In the next few hours I will send the electoral bases of this call to the Electoral Power. It will be an elected constituent, with a direct vote of the people, to choose about 500 constituents approximately. Some 200-250 elected by the bases,” he said.

In this regard, he urged the whole Venezuelan people to stand firm in defense of the legacy of Commander Hugo Chavez, who was the first to convene a national constituent assembly in 1999, with the aim of reforming the 1961 Constitution.

“The day has come, do not let me down, do not let Chavez down, do not let the homeland down,” he said.

Debate in the streets

President Maduro urged the popular power to debate in the streets the constitutional process, with the support of a presidential commission that will take the proposal for popular bases to decide how the system of election and scope of this new process will be.

“This commission will be presided over by the constituent Elias Jaua Milano and Aristobulo Isturiz vice president of the pioneer (constituent), Hermann Escarra, Isaias Rodriguez, Earle Herrera, Cilia Flores, Delcy Rodriguez, Iris Varela, Noeli Pocaterra and Francisco Ameliah will be participating there,” he said.

The President also rejected ongoing violent acts being carried out throughout the nation. “We are the children of the greatest democrat in the history of our country, our Commander Hugo Chavez, the great founder of democracy, we are a generation of men and women forged in a debate of ideas, in the street fights, we have faced everything and we do not want a civil war.”

Chavistas and Opposition March for May Day amid Fresh Clashes

Hundreds of thousands of red-clad supporters of President Nicolas Maduro marched from three points to the heart of Caracas in defense of the gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution.

“One of the most important [gains] was the Work Law, which we must defend, because it gave the entire working class freedom, the right to work, and education as well as promoting the inclusion of women,” Robinson Gonzalez of Lara state told VTV.

Approved in 2012 the Organic Law of Work and Workers (LOTTT) is widely considered one of the most progressive labor laws in the world, institutionalizing a host of protections, including the world’s third longest maternity leave, disability rights, as well as guarantees against outsourcing and arbitrary firings.

Venezuelan workers rally in support of President Nicolas Maduro. (AVN)

The pro-Maduro march follows nearly a month of ongoing opposition protests demanding the Venezuelan president’s ouster.

On Monday, anti-government demonstrators once again took to the streets to call for early presidential elections one year ahead of schedule as well as the removal of Venezuela’s Supreme Court justices.

Opposition leaders rallied their supports to march on the offices of the Supreme Court and National Electoral Council in the western Caracas municipality of El Libertador despite the lack of a permit for the route, which conflicted with that of the simultaneous Chavista marches.

As in previous mobilizations in recent weeks, Monday’s demonstration concluded in violent clashes with authorities as protesters attempted to march along Libertador Avenue where a pro-government march was slated to begin. Clashes also broke out along the Francisco Fajardo and Cota Mil highways with demonstrators setting fire to police crowd control vehicles.

Opposition supporters clash with authorities. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

According to Chacao Mayor Ramon Muchacho, 45 people suffered minor injuries in the course of the day’s mobilization, with one person being hospitalized for a head lesion.

The opposition mayor also reported that a group of 20 Chavistas from the country’s interior were nearly lynched by anti-government protesters when their transport was diverted to the east of the city.

The march saw renewed focos of violence, which have come to characterize the opposition’s mobilizations over the past month.

In La Florida, near the Cota Mil highway, protesters allegedly burned down a kiosk and outdoor bookstore. Likewise along the Cota Mil, opposition supporters are reported to have set fire to a truck as well as have strung barbed wire along the road in an effort to injure motorcyclists.

In another incident of arson, demonstrators allegedly destroyed three vegetable trucks near Libertador Avenue.

Venezuela’s National Journalists’ Union, for its part, denounced attacks by protesters against correspondents for the private television channel Globovision, leaving their vehicle damaged. The incident is the latest in a series of aggressions and harassment by opposition supporters against journalists from both state and private media in recent weeks.

Opposition leaders have vowed to remain in the streets until the government grants all of their demands, rallying their supporters to block roads in another show of force this Tuesday.

Thirty-two people have died since the anti-government demonstrations began on April 4, including 5 people killed by state security forces, 10 people killed by protesters, and the rest unaccounted for.

The government has moreover estimated that protests have caused over US $140 million in damages to public institutions, infrastructure, and private property.