Despite Previous Calls for a Constituent Assembly, Venezuela Opposition Now Rejects Measure

After denying President Maduro’s invitation for dialogue, opposition leaders now reject a measure they had demanded since 2013.

Opposition leaders called on their supporters “to shake up the country” and reject the invoking of a National Constituent Assembly, a measure that President Nicolas Maduro announced on May Day in a bid to appease social tensions in the country.

Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, called President Maduro’s move a “coup d’etat” and asked “everyone” on Twitter to take to the streets tomorrow at 6 a.m. local time in order “to shake up the country.”

According to Article 347 of Venezuela’s Constitution, the head of state can convene a national constituent assembly with the purpose of “transforming the state.” The 500 members of the assembly would be elected by direct and secret ballot, although sector groups would also be afforded seats in the body whose purpose would be to either amend the current constitution or to draft a new one.

Additionally, Maduro said that half of the assembly would be put forward by sectoral organizations instead of political parties, such as associations for the disabled, student groups, sexual minorities, unions, campesino organizations as well as private sector interests.

Borges’ predecessor in the lower chamber, Henry Ramos Allup, reacted to the measure with an offensive pun — at least to sex workers — on Twitter, saying “what Maduro convoked is not a Constituent Assembly but a Prostituent (Assembly).”

This reaction represents a surprising shift four years after 55 opposition leaders, including Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez, Freddy Guevara and Maria Corina Machado, signed a joint statement demanding a Constituent Assembly be called in order to “change a regime that has lost legitimacy.”

But Henrique Capriles, former presidential candidate and current governor of the state of Miranda, now claimed on Twitter that Maduro’s initiative is “one more constitutional fraud” and encouraged people “to disobey such madness” in the streets. He added that convoking the popular will consisted in a “self-coup” by Maduro, and told his supporters to “stay alert” for the future “actions (the opposition) will convoke.”

Despite the opposition leaders reactions, Maduro instructed Education Minister Elias Jaua to meet with all the opposition parties to invite them to discuss the procedure of setting up the Constituent Assembly, Jaua said on Twitter. Jaua will be heading the presidential commission in charge of consulting the civil society’s sectors for the new assembly.

Venezuela’s current 1999 or Bolivarian constitution, was the outcome of Hugo Chavez’s election promise to rewrite the country’s Magna Carta with the participation of Venezuelan society. The constitution is widely regarded as one of the most progressive in the world, not only enshrining broad social rights to the population, but also creating space for the population to directly intervene in political decision-making beyond elections.

This article originally appeared on TeleSUR English at http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Despite-Previous-Calls-for-a-Constituent-Assembly-Venezuela-Opposition-Now-Rejects-Measure-20170501-0028.html