Venezuelans are about to make a pivotal decision: fully embrace the authoritarian doctrine of President Nicolas Maduro and his current communist regime? Or fight for a chance at change and political freedom?
On July 30th, citizens will cast their vote regarding a redrafting of their national constitution. President Nicolas Maduro has ordered a 545-member constituent assembly by decree to undergo the task of redrafting the Venezuelan constitution, in an effort to, as he says, “stabilize” the country. 364 members of this assembly will be elected via polls open to all voters nationwide. The remaining 181 will consist of constituents elected by members of seven different social sectors, including Indigenous peoples, students, and pensioners.
The July 30 vote is a turning point for the troubled South American country. According to The Guardian, “…Maduro’s approval rating hovers around 20%.” However, the opposition is urging their supporters to boycott the upcoming election. Despite the presumably low voter turnout, if a constitutional rewrite gains the popular vote, it could result in the role of Parliament being greatly diminished or completely overruled. Thus, executive orders would be instantly approved.
Critics are wary of this, and say Venezuela may suffer the same democratic fate as Cuba. Many are also concerned about the escalated violence since Maduro announced the vote on May 1st. 97 people have died, thousands more have been injured, and on Monday, at least one was arrested after police invaded a peaceful vigil honoring Neomar Lander and other protesters who were killed during protests last month, says Al-Jazeera. Still, President Maduro calls his decision “the only road to restoring peace” in his country.
President Maduro calls his decision, “only road to restore peace” in his country.
This is not the first time Venezuela’s constitution has been rewritten. Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez called for an assembly in 1999, which resulted in the current version of the Venezuelan Constitution. One notable difference, though, is that Chavez ensured he had the majority’s support before calling for a redraft. As a result, Maduro has promised to hold a popular vote at the end of the redrafting process to formally approve or reject the new constitution. It was not indicated how long this process may last.
The international community has attempted to sway the current government. Yet Venezuelan officials use diplomacy to ensure Caribbean islands remain dependent on Venezuelan oil exports. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions, specifically an oil embargo, against Venezuela. Political experts believe this could have negative repercussions. While it would completely crush the nation’s economy, it would worsen an already-dire humanitarian situation in a country where basic necessities such as food and medicine are difficult to obtain.