Venezuelan Opposition Parties Reject Referendum on Constitutional Reform

Venezuelan opposition groups are planning to use "all means possible to stop the constitutional reform referendum," scheduled to take place on December 2.
Opposition spokesperson and constitutional lawyer Hermann Escarrá (El Universal)

Caracas, October 25, 2007 ( Venezuelan opposition groups are planning to use "all means possible to
stop the constitutional reform referendum," scheduled to take place on December

the proposed constitutional reforms as a "constitutional coup," a coalition of
opposition parties, some of which participated in the short lived military coup
against the government of Hugo Chavez in 2002, have called for a massive
protest on Saturday, November 3, demanding that the National Electoral Council
suspend the constitutional reform referendum. The demonstration is timed to
coincide with the foundation of the Bank of the South, which will be launch in Caracas, by seven
participating nations on the same day.

coalition includes Alianza Bravo Pueblo (Brave People's Alliance), Acción Democrática (Democratic
Action), Bandera Roja (Red Flag), Alianza Popular (Popular Alliance) and the
Comando Nacional de la
Resistencia (National Resistance Commando), among others, who
argue that the priority for the opposition is not whether to participate in the
referendum or to abstain, but rather to mobilize against the reform.

student groups, which demonstrated against the reforms on Tuesday, have planned
another protest at the CNE tomorrow calling for the referendum to be postponed.

However, Antonio
Ledezma, of Alianza Bravo Pueblo, indicated that the position of all the
parties in the coalition for November 3 "is to require the National Electoral Council
(CNE) not to postpone, but to leave without effect the referendum for the

argued that if the CNE "continues organizing the referendum it would be an
incitement to the people."

to Hermann Escarrá from the Comando Nacional de la Resistencia, who called
for a "rebellion" in Venezuela
shortly after the constitutional reform was first proposed on August 15, "there
is no electoral exit."

argues that the CNE and the electoral system in Venezuela is "fraudulent." However,
successive Venezuelan elections, including the 2006 presidential elections,
have been ratified as free and fair by international observers including the
Organisation of American States and the European Union.

to the results of a poll by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD)
published in El Diario de Yaracuy on
October 15, 50.6% of Venezuelans think the reforms are necessary, while 36.0%
think they are not.

So far the
Venezuelan opposition has been divided over what strategy to adopt in the face
of the constitutional reform referendum, with some sectors calling for a "NO"
vote, and others calling for abstention.

The two
opposition parties which received the highest votes, coming second and third
after Chavez in the presidential elections in 2006, Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New
Time) and Primero Justicia (Justice First), as well as the Christian-democratic
party COPEI, have not yet come on board the call for November 3.

Borges, the national coordinator of Primero Justicia argued that it was "not
convenient" to call for abstention in the constitutional reform referendum.

argued that the construction of a "political centre" and opposition
participation in the referendum was necessary "to curb the constitutional
reform that President Chavez aims to implement."

to anonymous student sources cited in Diario
today, more radical sectors of the opposition are planning acts to
destabilize the country in the lead up to the referendum, such as possible sabotage
of the metro system in Caracas.

National Assembly Deputy Dario Vivas announced that the campaign in support of
the reforms organised by the Zamora Command (named afterVenezuelan independence
fighter Ezequiel Zamora), will be launched on Sunday November 4, with a massive
national mobilization calling for a "YES" vote in the referendum, marching from
Parque del Este, to Avenida Bolivar in Caracas.

"We are
initiating our electoral campaign with much strength to diffuse [information]
and to approve the constitutional project," and "to guarantee that the people
determine their opinion in relation to the project," Vivas continued.

Vivas said that the demonstration in support of the
reform was also "in response to the destabilizing plan," of opposition sectors
"that seek to impede by any means the democratic approval by the Venezuelan
people of this constitution."