A handful of former Latin American presidents arrived in Venezuela on Saturday (July 15) in anticipation of observing an opposition-organized unofficial referendum on the constitution.
Opposition groups have called Sunday’s (July 16) plebiscite after months of protests, saying Venezuelans should have their say on President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox called on Venezuelans to vote and defended the legitimacy of the plebiscite.
Other former leader who will serve as observers include former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, former Bolivian President Tito Quiroga and former Costa Rican Presidents Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Laura Chinchilla.
The ex-presidents were appointed as observers by the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americans and invited by the opposition-led National Assembly.
The opposition will organize the symbolic vote on Sunday (July 16) as part of its strategy to delegitimise Maduro. Venezuelans will also be asked their view on the military’s responsibility for “recovering constitutional order” and the formation of a new “national unity” government, the Democratic Unity coalition announced.
The opposition’s planned vote, likely to be dismissed by the government, would be two weeks ahead of a planned July 30 vote proposed by Maduro for a Constituent Assembly with powers to reform the constitution and supersede other institutions.
00.00-00.20 Exterior of Simon Bolivar international airport – various of ex-latin -american presidents arrive
A number of former Latin-American Presidents have arrived in Venezuela to observe an opposition-organized unofficial referendum on the country’s constitution.
The vote on Sunday was called following months of violent protests, with opposition politicians saying Venezuelans should have their say on President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said: “It is fundamentally important that Maduro is fully aware. He can argue that millions and millions of ballots are not official, clearly they are because the call comes from the National Assembly.”
Many Venezuelans blame Maduro for his economic mismanagement, something they say has led to unprecedented shortages of basic goods, panic-buying and lengthy queues at supermarkets across the country.
One Caracas resident said: “With this referendum going nationwide, we will take to the streets of Venezuela again to tell them we don’t want this government.
“We don’t want their Constituent Assembly. The government has no backing and people have turned against them and we’ll try once and for all to end famine, misery and insecurity.”
If the ballot, which Maduro’s government considers an act of civil disobedience, goes against the president, the daily calls for his resignation are sure to intensify.
The recent wave of often violent demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands across Venezuela, could indicate a landslide victory for the leader’s opponents.