7.2 million people in Venezuela have voted against the Nicolás Maduro Moros’s plan to change the constitution in an unofficial referendum. It had been organized by the opposition.
The country has witnessed multiple protests since January 2017 that have left 90 dead.
Despite having world's largest proven oil deposits, many Venezuelans have lived in abject poverty. The former President, Hugo Chavez, was in office from 1999 to 2013. In that period, billions of dollars were spent in generous social programs. After his death, his successor, Nicolas Maduro took office. There has been a rise in inflation and a shortage of basic goods. A drop in oil prices had added to the administration’s problems.
From 2014, there have been recurrent protests against the government because of many of these issues. Detractors blame the current economic policies for the crisis. People are also disillusioned by the high level of urban violence prevalent in the nation.
The protests have increased from 2017. There have been calls for fresh elections to remove United Socialist Party (PSUV) from power.
In March 2017, the country’s Supreme Court took over legislative powers from the National Assembly. The opposition called it a coup. Additionally, the president also announced that he wants to re-write the country’s constitution. He has called a vote on July 30, 2017, to create a super-legislature known as a Constituent Assembly. The opposition led by politician, Julio Borges, has deemed this a blow to democracy. The opposition fears that Maduro is looking to instate a governing system that is comparable to the Cuba government.
The unofficial referendum that was called by the opposition was also mired by violence. A tussle broke out when government supporters in motorcycles entered an opposition polling site in a church. The resultant violence led to the death of a 61-year-old woman and injured four others.
With over 7.2 million having voted against the government, the opposition has called for further protests in the country. It has implored its supporters to maintain peace.
The international community has also weighed in on the issue. The United States has condemned the actions of the government and has threatened sanctions. In a statement US President Donald Trump said, “The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions
Our assessment is that the unofficial vote shows that Maduro does not have the mandate or the public support to completely change the governing system of the country. He also can’t risk sanctions from countries like the US. The sanctions will likely hit its vital energy sector and that might cripple its economy.