Venezuelan opposition leaders have called on their supporters to block all roads in their neighborhoods Tuesday as a way of rejecting President Nicolas Maduro’s call for a national Constituent Assembly, a process to bring together social and other organizations to rewrite the the country’s 1999 constitution.
The proposal was presented by the president on May Day as an attempt to lower the political tensions after opposition and pro-government supporter have taken to the streets in nearly-daily protests for the past month.
But the oppposition slammed Maduro’s announcement as a “coup” that it would consolidate “one more constitutional fraud” and called for people to rebel in the streets in a fresh round of protests Tuesday. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles warned that Maduro’s opponents will continue to organize against the government.
In recent weeks, waves of protests have resulted in a number of violent incidents that have led to the deaths of more than two dozen people whie hundreds were injured. Amid the protests, public institutions including schools and hospitals sustained damaged and many small businesses were looted.
On Tuesday morning, protesters began setting up road blocks in various Caracas neighborhoods.
“They want peace, constituent power, they want elections, constituent power,” said Maduro during Monday’s rally where he announced the new plans for a Constituent Assembly.
In 2013, opposition leaders, including Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and María Corina Machado, signed a statement demanding a Constituent Assembly to remove the president.
According to the constitution, the constituent assembly would be comprised of 500 members, directly elected by Venezuelans. Maduro said that half of the assembly would be organized by sectoral organizations instead of political parties, such as associations of people with disabilities, student groups, the LGBTQ community, unions, campesino organizations, as well as the private sector.
Venezuela’s current 1999 constitution was written under late President Hugo Chavez’s and is widely regarded as one of the most progressive in the world, enshrining social rights and creating space for the population to intervene in the political decision making.
Chavistas and Opposition March for May Day amid Fresh Clashes
Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas in pro and anti-government marches Monday in commemoration of International Workers’ Day.
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.