Venezuela in a Vise
By FRANCISCO TORO,
The government’s efforts to block a referendum against President Maduro are undemocratic and unconstitutional — and a betrayal of Hugo Chávez.
Thousands of people are expected to fan out in protest across Venezuela on Wednesday to demand a referendum for the removal of President Nicolás Maduro: His government has overseen an economic crisis that has decimated livelihoods throughout the country. A so-called recall referendum may be held if 20 percent of registered voters in each state sign a petition at the end of this month. Even if they do, however, a meaningful recall vote is far from guaranteed. Under the Constitution new elections won’t take place if the referendum is scheduled after Jan. 10. In that case, and if Mr. Maduro is voted out, the vice president will serve the remaining two years of Mr. Maduro’s term in his place. It’s up to the national election commission to determine when to hold the referendum, and the commission has a long record of pro-government partisanship. Earlier this year, it took over a month to produce the simple one-page official form that the political opposition needed to collect signatures for the referendum. This foot-dragging has been called unconstitutional, undemocratic, a desperate ploy to hang on to power. And it’s all of those things. It’s also a betrayal of Mr. Chávez’s vision for the country. The regime, which casts itself as carrying Mr. Chávez’s torch, cannot be seen as undercutting his legacy, especially not by the all-important army brass.
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