Published On: Fri, Jun 2nd, 2017

Venezuela’s President announces referendum on constitution to quell unrest

“The people who say whether they are in agreement or not with the new, strengthened constitution,” Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in CaracasCARACAS – Embattled Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is making fresh overtures to quash violent anti-government protests that have rocked the country over the last two months.

Yesterday, he announced plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution which has already been rejected by some interest groups.

“I shall propose it explicitly: the new constitution will go to a consultative referendum so it is the people who say whether they are in agreement or not with the new, strengthened constitution,” he announced on state television.

A key plank of the constitution is the creation of a new super-body, known as a constituent assembly, to rewrite the national charter.

Maduro says the constituent assembly is needed to bring peace to Venezuela.

There was no immediate reaction from Venezuela’s opposition.

However, chief state prosecutor Luis Ortega has charged that creating the assembly, without a plebiscite as happened in 1999 when Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez rewrote the constitution, threatened to “eliminate” democracy in Venezuela.

Maduro said First Lady Cilia Flores as well as his foreign minister and other top aides will lead a slate of candidates competing for seats in the special assembly that will rewrite the constitution.

Maduro remains under pressure to call early elections. Opposition forces have blamed his government for severe food and medicine shortages, but the president has described the crisis as a US-backed conspiracy.

State prosecutors say 62 people have been killed in two months of unrest.

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