A coup foretold

Your daily briefing for May Wednesday 03. Translated by Javier Liendo

Nicolás’ speech last night revealed the improvisation plaguing his call for a custom-made constituent assembly. Not even his closest cronies managed to give a semblance of coherence to the unconstitutional proposal, which suppresses the popular referendum, denies the possibility of holding universal, secret and direct elections, prioritizes the involvement of chavismo-controlled sectors and even restricts free and open nominations.

Cross data

According to Education minister Elías Jaua, the constituyente will guarantee the conditions for future elections because, right now, conditions aren’t stable. But relax, the conditions will be met and that’s why he asked us to trust PSUV’s democratic spirit. Such is the strength of that spirit, that even Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López spoke about a matter that doesn’t concern him and claimed that “nothing could be more democratic” than imposing this constituent assembly.

Padrino took too long to say what he was really there to say: that the chavista Armed Forces support Nicolás, and he said it beside Communes minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, who would later say that the constituyente is a higher dialogue but at a sector level, with social entities that didn’t exist in 1999 and that’s why the election will be different. He messed up quite a few times and fell short of arguments, but the worst performance came from Adán Chávez, who said over and over that this constituent process is only designed to enact some reforms, but since he’s el finado’s brother, they’re more lenient with his idiocy.

Universal elections

National Electoral Council board member Luis Emilio Rondón warned that Nicolás’ call violates one of the fundamentals of elections: “Universality is the right of all Venezuelans to vote regardless of their race, sex, beliefs or social status (art. 63 of the Constitution),” adding that proposing special methods to establish the constituent process, which are not enshrined in the Constitution, denies Venezuelans the right to choose their representatives: “Corporatist elections, by groups or sectors, pervert the essence of suffrage and violate the Constitution.” Hopefully, Aristóbulo will take note.

Early assault

Neighbors of La Urbina, El Llanito and El Paraíso got tear gassed early on Tuesday. The trancazo (street-blocking protest) called by the opposition to protest the imposition of the constituent assembly, was repressed by the combined efforts of the National Guard and paramilitary groups in different ways, all of them serious: robberies, arson, vandalism and gunfire.

The Legislative Palace was also attacked by chavista supporters. Valencia was probably the hardest hit yesterday, with reports of looting and a fire in the Ombudsman’s Office. This sole event made None-budsman Tarek William Saab use his Twitter account to blame the opposition and denounce threats “to his physical and moral integrity,” due to “the instigation of hatred and the attempt at character assassination” against the illustrious government he represents.

Certain conditions apply

Interior minister Néstor Reverol reported that the government has suspended the right to carry firearms (porte de armas) nationwide for 180 days. This measure is supposed to guarantee security, peace and the public order, the one we’re so familiar with despite the colossal amount of illegal weapons, our crime rates and impunity.

Sadly, the measure doesn’t apply to paramilitary colectivos and allows the State Secret Police (SEBIN) to violate the parliamentary immunity of lawmaker Wilmer Azuaje and detain him with an arrest warrant allegedly issued on April 19th, in which the second municipal court of control of the Judicial Circuit of Barinas accuses him for the crime of committing terrorist acts and organized crime.

No consensus

The extraordinary session of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) called for this Tuesday in El Salvador concluded without an agreement due to lack of consensus in the absence of Foreign ministers from Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, Barbados, Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. Delcy Rodríguez returns to the country after this resounding failure and a shameful performance in the press conference afterwards, where she showed she’s more skilled at insulting OAS chief Luis Almagro than at defending the fraud of the constituyente or explaining her peers’ absence.

Meanwhile, ambassador Rafael Ramírez uploaded a picture on Twitter smiling beside UN chief Antonio Guterres, thanking him for his support in the controversy with Guyana regarding the Esequibo. He forgot to mention Guterres’ public statements: he’s been in touch with the mediators of the dialogue that hasn’t happened and the Vatican, to review his options in view of the country’s crisis. That, in fact, was the meeting’s goal.

The rest of the world

The United States accused Nicolás of trying to “change the rules of the game” to hold onto power, remarking that they could study new sanctions against individual chavista officials. According to the State Department, the constitutional process proposed “overrides the will of the Venezuelan people and further erodes Venezuelan democracy (…) it is not shaping up to be a genuine effort at national reconciliation.”

Brazilian Foreign minister Aloysio Nunes labeled the constituyente a coup and added: “It’s the latest rupture of democratic order, subverting the country’s own Constitution.” For Chilean Foreign minister Heraldo Muñoz: “Venezuela’s already difficult situation is no doubt becoming more complex, more severe,” an opinion he shares with his Argentine counterpart Susana Malcorra: “I think that in this moment [the constituent process] is almost like more fuel to the fire (…) it seems like everyone is doubling the stakes and not considering that those who die on the street are Venezuelans, whatever their political opinions.”

The constituyente is meant to transform the State, not to reinforce an existing Constitution and that was obvious for a lot of people yesterday. Condemnation for this proposal has been significant and it’s only ramped up the crisis, raising the uncertainty before the government’s opacity regarding their own scheme. They can win some time, but consolidating power is a different kind of monster, especially now that radicalization further unites the opposition and ratifies the relevance of protests.

The regime’s international isolation is remarkable. Yesterday’s mistake was hard to disguise, but moreover, it’s going to be difficult for them to find someone to write a justification for nullifying one-man-one-vote, an action that further undermines Nicolás’ already failing legitimacy. As far as solutions go, the constituent assembly’s so divorced ofromf Venezuelan’s true concerns (food, medicines, basic services and security) that Nicolás couldn’t rally support for it even if he brought Chávez back from the grave.

See you today, in Altamira.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.