Elias Jaua: “To preserve peace in Venezuela, there’s no choice but to convene nationwide dialogue to reform the Constitution”

Elías José Jaua Milano

Albaciudad / The Dawn

From El Salvador, where the meeting of Chancellors of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is being held, the Minister of Education and leader of the Presidential Commission of the Constituent National Assembly affirmed that one of his goals is to restore the principle of cooperation of the powers, because that’s the only way to preserve peace in the country given the opposition’s lack of will to dialogue.

“It will open a window of peace in this context where the Venezuelan counter-revolution, in cooperation with the US, has been mudding the water to promote the outbreak of a civil war in the country, which is the same strategy that has been applied in Libya and Syria,’ Jaua said in an interview with TeleSUR.

He remarked that the government has been trying to block attempts to install a civil war by beginning a democratic and revolutionary process by which the President of the Republic puts power in the hands of the people. ‘Let the people decide on the model of country we want to build, on the organization of the state and on the broadening and perfecting of our Constitution, which we approved in 1999.’

The first task on the list of the Constituent National Assembly’s Presidential Commission is to set meetings with representatives of society.

Meetings will also be held Tuesday in the Congress of the Motherland, which is an event that reunites a broad variety of social movements. On Wednesday, May 3, they will meet with representatives of the public powers and representatives of the main religious groups of the country.

The calling will be extended to the ‘Motherland’ Bloc and to the Opposition Bloc in the Parliament, as well as principals of public and private universities, constituents who wrote the 1999 Constitution, indigenous associations, chiefs of all indigenous communities, legalized union confederations, corporation unions, owners of media outlets, the national communal bloc, the peoples’ government in territories and sectors of the national students’ movement.

The MUD’s reaction to the proposal

The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) called Venezuelans to ‘rebel against the Constituent process’, to protest every day on the streets against what they consider ‘a dissolution of democracy and of the Republic’.

In what is a serious threat to democracy, the opposition also called the Venezuelan Armed Forces to rebel against the government. On May 1st, the President of the National Assembly, opposition member Julio Borges, said: ‘The Venezuelan Armed Forces are against this madness’ (…) ‘I call the Armed forces’(…) ‘The Armed Forces cannot remain quiet’.

They also call the voting mechanism ‘fraudulent’ because the people will choose 500 representatives, who will vote on the final version of the text.

The Constituent National Assembly: the only option for peace

Regarding the reactions of the Venezuelan opposition, Jaua pointed out that all they do is confirm the diagnostic that led President Maduro to call to this Constituent assembly, which is a situation of scarce possibilities for dialogue, even with the support of Pope Francis. ‘There’s no other way to preserve peace in the country to call to a national Constituent dialogue in all areas of the country, considering that the leadership of the MUD in Venezuela has chosen the way of violence—they have abandoned the way of politics and chosen armed, terrorist actions. They have abandoned the way of democracy.’

Jaua called all supporters of peace to join the debate and bring reason to it, since the reasons the opposition has expressed to resist the process ‘are absolutely baseless. The Constituent will be voted on through universal, secret and direct vote, in sectorial and territorial districts’.

‘What they have said about it being a mechanism designed by the President, Nicolás Maduro, is completely false and what we ask is that they come and listen to the proposal, the goal, the programmatic lines and the ideas we have on the creation of the voting structure that will be used to choose the constituents,’ the Minister explained.

Lastly, he emphasized that one of the goals of the Constituent assembly is to restitute the principle of cooperation between powers. This cooperation has been broken since the National Assembly, led by the opposition, was declared in contempt for violating legal procedures and trying to destitute the President. The Supreme Justice Court had to intervene to block a coup attempt.

Jaua remarked that there are governors that are in contempt against the National State, like the governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, who has been defying public security organisms.

‘Let’s imagine for a moment what it would look like if the US governor of Florida went to Washington with his police force to try to enter the White House by means of force. We also have a National Assembly that is disobeying the sentence of the Supreme Justice Court, in confrontation with the Ombudsman. Without a doubt, right now, conditions aren’t normalized enough from the institutional point of view for us to be able to say that we can go to an electoral process that’s acknowledged by both parts,’ Jaua concluded.

Venezuela’s Maduro Calls for National Constituent Assembly to End Political Impasse

Workers celebrate International Workers’ Day in Caracas.

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas

Caracas, May 2, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro officially called for a National Constituent Assembly to be convened this May Day, in a bid to bring an end to the political crisis between the national government and the opposition-held parliament.

Speaking to the hundreds of thousands of government supporters that took to the streets of the nation’s capital for International Workers’ Day 2017, Maduro explained that he would invoke article 347 of the constitution to trigger the assembly, which will be responsible for re-drafting the 1999 Constitution.

“I convoke the original constituent power, a national constituent assembly with the people, with the working class! It is time and it is the path forward… They [the opposition] have left us with no alternatives,” he said.

“I invoke the original constituent power to achieve the peace necessary for the Republic, to defeat the fascist attempts at a coup, so that the sovereignty of the people may impose peace, harmony, and true national dialogue,” he continued.

The president explained that there are nine areas in which the assembly will work to reorient the current Constitution, such as incorporating the social programs of the Chavez and Maduro governments as well as the communal councils and communes as new expressions of local government into the Magna Carta. He also said that orientations towards building a “post-petroleum” economy in Venezuela and stopping climate change should be institutionalized. In statements to the crowd, the head of state promised that the assembly would be one of the “people, workers, feminists, communards, campesinos and young people”.

It is the first time that a constituent assembly has been convened since the 1999 Constitution was approved by referendum, and there is little information on carrying out the procedure in the Constitution.

Nonetheless, the government has confirmed that the assembly will be made up of some 500 directly elected delegates, 250 of whom will be elected from among the country’s social movements. The president has also designated a constitutional commission to organize the process, which includes veteran Chavistas such as Education Minister Elias Jaua, constitutional lawyer Herman Escarra, and indigenous Wayuu activist Noheli Pocoterra, who were all involved in drafting the previous constitution.

According to statements made to state media by Escarra, the aim of the constituent assembly is not to totally redraft the 1999 Constitution but to “transform the state”. He suggested that the priority of the assembly would be to safeguard the gains of the revolution over the past 18 years.

“We were naive when we originally drafted the 1999 constitution… We didn’t know it would be attacked the way it has been,” he said.

The convening of the national assembly has become a trending topic on Twitter under the hashtag “ConstituentForPeace,” presumably amongst government supporters.

Since December 2015, Venezuela has witnessed a stand-off between the Maduro government and the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which swore to use its mandate to remove the government from power. Since then, opposition legislators have consistently tried to pass legislation that has been thrown out by the Supreme Court for violating the Constitution.

Tensions came to a head at the beginning of April over another Supreme Court ruling against the National Assembly, leading to violent opposition protests in the streets. The unrest has claimed the lives of 32 people to date and shows no signs of subsiding.

Opposition leaders have so far refused to enter into national dialogue with the government to bring about a peaceful solution to the deadlock – despite recent encouragement from the Pope. Vatican-mediated talks came to a stalemate last year after opposition leaders walked out, and the opposition is currently demanding snap general elections at least a year ahead of schedule. It is also pushing for the purging of pro-government officials from the Supreme Court and National Electoral Council.

Responding to Maduro’s message to convoke the constitutional assembly as a way out of the impasse on Monday night, opposition leaders described the move as a “coup” and a “fraud” and called on their supporters to block streets and motorways in protest.

“Attention: the great blockade was accomplished today! We call on all of Venezuela to mobilize tomorrow against the constituent fraud of Maduro. All 24 states!,” tweeted National Assembly Vice-President Freddy Guevara Tuesday afternoon.

Despite his staunch rejection of the president’s proposal, the Popular Will party leader had actually advocated for a constituent assembly “to change all of the public powers” in 2014.

The current head of the National Assembly and member of First Justice, Julio Borges, also echoed Guevara’s demands. He charged the government with using the constituent assembly as a pretext to avoid the general elections that the opposition is pushing for.

“Let it be clear to the world, let it be clear to the Venezuelan people, what was announced today is not a constituent assembly, do not be fooled. It is not a constituent assembly, but a ruse to trick the Venezuelan people through a mechanism that will do nothing more than aggravate the state coup in Venezuela and seeking through the Constitution, to destroy the very Constitution, democracy and the vote,” he said in a press conference on Monday night.

“What has happened today, and I say this without exaggerations… is the most serious coup d’etat to have taken place in the history of Venezuela… the Democratic Unity Roundtable and opposition legislators call on the people to rebel against it!” he told reporters.