Venezuela opposition holds symbolic referendum

With authorities refusing to greenlight Sunday’s vote and pro-Maduro supporters boycotting it, opposition voters look poised to reject the president’s proposal to retool the 1999 constitution by electing a super-body known as the constituent assembly on July 30.


“Analysts and universities here suspect that an unpopular government could rewrite the constitution to tighten their grip on the country, doing away with the opposition dominated national Congress and cancelling the 2018 presidential elections,” said Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Cucuta, in neighbouring Colombia.


Although the referendum has no legal standing, Latin American presidents from Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica flew to Venezuela at the opposition’s invitation to act as observers of the vote, alongside electoral experts from various countries.


“This fraudulent constitutional assembly will create a majority that will shut Congress, throw democracy out the window, wipe out state governors and fire the chief prosecutor,” said former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga to AP news agency on Saturday.


The United Nations has also weighed in. “We urge authorities to respect the wishes of those who want to participate in this consultation and to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office of the High Comissioner (OHCHR), said.


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