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In Amid protests, Venezuelan president calls for new constitution:

May 1 (UPI) -- His country beset by hyper-inflation and wracked by violent protests, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called Monday for a popular assembly to rewrite the country's constitution.

"I call a constituent assembly that will be profoundly communal, from the working class, from the people," Maduro said, invoking Article 347 of the Bolivarian Constitution.

Title IX, Chapter III, Article 347 in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela states:

Article 347: The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the purpose of transforming the State, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new Constitution.

Being an outsider to Venezuelan politics, what is the political reasoning for invoking said article?

  • Maybe to put more power to the president so he can stay in power forever ? – Max May 2 '17 at 13:00
  • @Max That's a wild speculation (especially something I wasn't expecting), any verifiable facts to back that up? – Bradley Wilson May 2 '17 at 13:01
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    There is a very thin line where the answer to this question isn't opinion. It would need to balance the President's stated objectives, with the strongest objections being put forward by the nation. It would also need to account for the Governments action to disarm the majority of the people, while providing arms to 'militias' seen as loyal to the government. – Drunk Cynic May 2 '17 at 13:57
  • Venezuela is similar to Cuba in that a corrupt U.S.-backed regime was was toppled by a leftist leader - something the U.S. has never liked. The U.S. has thus been working hard to destabilize Venezuela for a long time. Maduro has little choice but play hardball. When the "opposition" is little more than a rubber stamp for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, what can you do? – David Blomstrom Aug 31 '17 at 0:21
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This is clearly part of Maduro's response to the ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela. Beyond that, supporters and opponents of Maduro have different perspectives on what this is about.

According to Al-Jazeera, Maduro himself told a crowd of supporters:

"I convoke the original constituent power to achieve the peace needed by the Republic, defeat the fascist coup, and let the sovereign people impose peace, harmony and true national dialogue."

The themes of "peace" and "dialogue" seem to be a common one raised by Maduro supporters. One of his advisers is quoted in the New York Times:

“There are violent groups that don’t understand that violence won’t get us anywhere, and that we must have a dialogue despite our differences,” said Hermann Escarrá, a legal adviser to Mr. Maduro.

Opposition political parties will not have representation in the assembly, which will give Maduro considerable control over the outcome. The assembly has the power to call for an election and to set the terms of it. ABC News cites a political analyst on the strategic implications:

If the constitutional process goes forward, opposition leaders will need to focus on getting at least some sympathetic figures included in the citizens assembly. That could distract them from the drumbeat of near daily street protests that they have managed to keep up for four weeks, political analyst Luis Vicente Leon said.

"It's a way of calling elections that uses up energy but does not carry risk, because it's not a universal, direct and secret vote," Leon said. "And it has the effect of pushing out the possibility of elections this year and probably next year as well."

The New York Times article quotes a different expert with a similar opinion:

To many, Mr. Maduro’s call to rewrite the Constitution seemed like an effort to divert attention from the political crisis he has been facing in the streets and to avoid elections that his governing United Socialist Party is likely to lose, according to polls.

“From my point of view, they are in a dire situation that they don’t know how to continue using the normal mechanisms, such as having elections,” said Enrique Sánchez Falcón, a legal expert and professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

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In short, because Legislature is currently controlled by opposition which is understandably is trying to remove him from power; which just as understandably he's trying to prevent.

Details are covered in numerous media, e.g. Reuters (or, heck, Al Jazeera).

Rewriting the constitution allows him to bypass the parlament thus removing any power from opposition.

In short, it's a dictatorial power grab

Only half of the 500-member assembly, or less, would be elected and political parties would not participate, he said.

Opponents fear Maduro would stuff the assembly with supporters and manipulate the elected seats by giving extra weight to pro-government workers and unions.

  • I down voted your question because you wrote 1) "is understandably trying to remove him from power," 2) "it's a dictatorial power grab" and 3) your links to questionable media. In time of war or extreme danger, governments normally become more authoritarian, and Venezuela has long been in a virtual state of war with the U.S., which has a long tradition of crushing countries that embrace socialism. So, yes, Venezuela's government is becoming more authoritarian, but branding it "dictatorial" is ridiculous. Keep in mind, the "opposition" gets substantial support from the U.S. – David Blomstrom Aug 31 '17 at 0:18

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