Hard-line Venezuelan Opposition Launches Signature Drive for Constitutional Assembly

Hard-line groups of the Venezuelan opposition, led by jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez’ Popular Will (VP) party, have launched a signature drive in an attempt to convoke a National Constituent Assembly and remove the Bolivarian government from power.

By Ewan Robertson

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Hard-line groups of the Venezuelan opposition, led by the Popular Will (VP) party of jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez, have launched a signature drive in an attempt to convoke a national constituent assembly and remove the Bolivarian government from power  (VP – Yaracuy).
Hard-line groups of the Venezuelan opposition, led by the Popular Will (VP) party of jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez, have launched a signature drive in an attempt to convoke a national constituent assembly and remove the Bolivarian government from power (VP – Yaracuy).
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Mérida, 29th September 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Hard-line groups of the Venezuelan opposition, led by jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez’ Popular Will (VP) party, have launched a signature drive in an attempt to convoke a National Constituent Assembly and remove the Bolivarian government from power.

The move comes as the opposition continues to be divided over strategy following the appointment of a new executive secretary to their Democratic Unity Table (MUD) coalition last week.

The push for a Constituent Assembly launched by VP and its allies last weekend is based on articles 347 – 348 of the Venezuelan constitution, which state that if at least 15% of the electorate supports the initiative, a National Constituent Assembly must be called “to transform the state, create a new legal structure and write a new constitution”.

The groups wishing to convoke such an assembly will collect signatures across the country for the next six weeks. On the current electoral roll, they need just under 2.9 million to meet the requirement.

We have the opportunity to be the change in history…this is to change the political model, there isn’t democracy in Venezuela,” said David Smolansky, the opposition mayor of a Caracas municipality, at the weekend.

Several pro-opposition media sources have doubted whether enough signatures will be collected. Many parties in the MUD coalition do not support the strategy, stating their preference to focus on winning a majority in the 2015 parliamentary elections instead.

Further, the methodology used by VP to collect signatures has been declared inadmissible by the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE). The CNE released a statement on Saturday arguing that the electoral body would have to supervise signature collection to certify their validity, and that based on previous practice the collection of signatures should be conducted over a period of three days rather than several months.

New opposition spokesperson

Last Wednesday the MUD coalition, which groups together almost all opposition parties including VP, announced teacher, activist and journalist Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba as the organisation’s new executive secretary. Torrealba replaces university professor Ramon Aveledo, who resigned from the post in July amid internal differences.

Torrealba is known for hosting a program on private channel Globovision called “Radar of the Barrios”, named after an NGO he founded which seeks to “improve living conditions in the popular barrios (poor communities)”. His appointment to front the MUD is considered to be motivated by the opposition’s wish to reach out to the country’s lower income communities, where the majority of people tend to support the Bolivarian government.

Upon accepting the post, the new MUD spokesperson said that opposition activists would participate in a “day of mobilisation” in barrio communities this Saturday as part of this new approach.

We’re heading forward, we’re going to build more democracy, we’re going to confront this totalitarian regime. The news here is that the MUD is going onto the streets,” said Torrealba in a press conference as he accepted the post.

Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly and a leading government politician, has accused Torrealba of being on opposition mayor Antonio Ledezma’s payroll as an adviser, and of having been “imposed” on the coalition against the will of other opposition leaders. The MUD states that the journalist’s appointment was by unanimity.