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Venezuelan Opposition Announces Plan to Oust Maduro, Faces Constitutional Roadblocks

Caracas, March 9, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), unveiled on Tuesday its “roadmap” for ousting President Nicolas Maduro from power and ushering in a “change of government”.

Coming on the heels of the landslide opposition victory in December that saw the right-wing coalition win nearly two-thirds of the country’s parliament, the announcement echoes recent promises by MUD legislators to remove Maduro within six months time.

According to MUD General Secretary Jesus Torrealba, the plan has four components, including a constitutional amendment reducing the term of the president, a recall referendum, street mobilizations, as well as a constituent process to rewrite the constitution.

In the first place, MUD lawmakers plan to pass an amendment to the nation’s constitution shortening the presidential term from six to four years, in a move that they hope will “bring about new elections this year”.

At the same time, the right-wing coalition intends to begin the extensive legal process for convening a recall referendum, which includes the collection of close to four million signatures, corresponding to 20% of the electorate.

Meanwhile, the MUD will convoke street mobilizations to “demand the resignation of Maduro” with the first protest scheduled for this coming Saturday.

The call for protests harkens back to the 2014 opposition campaign known as “the exit”, which sought to force the resignation of President Maduro through violent street mobilizations that resulted in the deaths of 43 people, the majority of whom passerby and security personnel.

Last year, opposition leaders issued numerous calls for mass protests, which were largely unsuccessful, marred by low turnout and internal divisions. 

Finally, in the event that the other pathways are blocked by the Supreme Court and other public powers, the MUD will initiate the process of convening a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Constitutional challenges

The opposition strategy faces various constitutional hurdles, however, that may prevent it from achieving its aims.

According to constitutional experts, a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term would only affect future presidential mandates, permitting Maduro to finish out his democratically elected six-year term.

Similarly, a recall referendum will face an extended series of legal steps that may or may not culminate in the successful recall of the president.

That is, the MUD must first collect 3.9 million signatures in the span of three days, which must be then verified by the National Electoral Council (CNE) before scheduling the referendum within 90 days.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, one of the main backers of the recall option, has estimated that this process could take as long 228 days.

“We should have a recall [referendum] in October,” he stated yesterday.

Nonetheless, if the opposition fails to convoke a referendum before January 1, 2017, no new presidential elections will called in the event of a successful recall vote, as the sitting vice-president will finish the remainder of the president’s term.

The MUD parliamentary bloc has announced its intention to pass a law to expedite the recall process, though no details are yet available.

Vallejo slams visit by MUD lawmakers to Chile

The release of the “roadmap for change” coincides with a recent visit by MUD lawmakers to Chile with the goal of securing support for the application of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) democratic charter against Venezuela.

The delegation comes as part of an international tour by MUD lawmakers to drum up support for OAS sanctions against Venezuela following a recent call for the body’s intervention by National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup this past week.

Luis Florido, William Davila, and Carlos Valero were invited to address the Chilean Senate Monday by the body’s Christian Democratic president, Patricio Walker, where they called for assistance in “defending democracy in Latin America”.

In addition to gaining the backing of Walker, the delegation also succeeded in winning support from the president of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, Marco Antonio Muñoz, who endorsed the lawmakers’ proposal to create a Latin American Parliamentary Front to put pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The delegation was not, however, universally welcomed in Chile.

Communist parliamentarian Camila Vallejo, for her part, condemned the visit as part of a “grotesque and abusive game” to discredit the democratically-elected Maduro government.

“A campaign has been orchestrated against the progressive governments of Latin America…the Chilean government cannot fall into this game [of supporting the so-called “political prisoners” in Venezuela] which doesn’t have noble ends for the defense of human rights, because it has a clear political intent,” the former student leader stated.

Last April, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet refused to meet with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed right-wing politician Leopoldo Lopez, in a move that was widely seen as a blunt rejection of the former’s international campaign against the Venezuelan government.

Published on Mar 9th 2016 at 7.40pm