This week, the United States, European Union and most of Latin America were unified in their opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s Constituent Assembly this past weekend. The assembly will have full power to rewrite the country’s constitution and preserve Maduro’s power.
While most observers have criticized Maduro’s attempt to gain dictatorial powers over Venezuela through the assembly, Maduro found a familiar ally in Colombia’s political left.
Jesús Emilio Carvajalino, representative of the FARC guerrilla group, said on Monday that Venezuela had “conclusively voted and produced historical results” in Sunday’s election of Maduro’s National Constituent Assembly. He added that the FARC approved of Maduro’s assembly and that, “in Venezuela, peace and democracy triumphed. The country had their highest turnout in the Bolivarian process on Sunday”, he claimed.
On the ground, the crisis took another dark turn as more than 10 more people were killed on Sunday during the voting. Emboldened by the results of the assembly, the Venezuelan president used more brutal police tactics and deployed his intelligence service to kidnap two members of the country’s opposition. Ironically, though Maduro and Carvajalino often refer to the “Bolivarian state”, one of the politicians that was kidnapped, Leopoldo Lopez, is a direct descendent of the country’s founder, Simon Bolívar.
The assembly vote only allowed voters to select from candidates that were loyal to the country’s governing party. Many residents complained that they were forced to vote out of fear of losing government services, or in some cases, their jobs. Delcy Leonor Medina, a 52-year-old housekeeper in Venezuela, told the UK Guardian that her neighbours in a working-class district of Caracas will lose their government subsidized homes if they don’t vote. However she decided to abstain regardless.
“I’m not giving that bastard anything. If the constituent assembly is voted in, I may have to leave here,” she said.
Informo con orgullo que acabo de ser despedido de la institución donde trabajé por cinco años, por no votar en el fraude constituyente pic.twitter.com/2Yz6vZ09OR
— Javier Hernandez (@jhernandezucv) August 2, 2017
However, Carvajalino criticized media coverage of the assembly.
“It draws attention to CNN, who treat this process as war. They continue their psychological war, which they intend to transform into a real war, and military aggression against Venezuela”, he said.
Iván Márquez shared Carvajalino’s opinion on Twitter, writing that: “some journalists covering Venezuela are not only non-objective, but they are furious opponents who want to overthrow Maduro”.
FARC leader Rodrigo Lodoño, aka ‘Timochenko’, also spoke out on twitter.
“We send our regards to the process of dignity and sovereignty by the Venezuelan people in the National Constituent Assembly voting. We say no to foreign intervention. We are a sovereign people”, he wrote.
Saludamos el proceso de dignidad y soberanía del pueblo venezolano en la votaciones en la ANC, no a la injerencia extranjera. pic.twitter.com/8myP2p7ypC
— Rodrigo Londoño (@TimoComunes) July 31, 2017
On Monday, former M19 terrorist and ex-mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, became the first and only presidential candidate to speak in favor of the constituent assembly as well.
“Can one be both against Maduro and against the people because they vote and decide through a sovereign process?“, he asked his Twitter followers. However the statement ignored the fact that voting options were limited to the ruling party, and that citizens were forced to vote at the risk of losing their jobs and benefits.
Se puede estar en contra de Maduro, del modelo petrolero y minero extractivo, pero contra este pueblo porque vota y decide soberanamente? pic.twitter.com/AMZA1OdEW0
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) July 30, 2017
This article was modified on August 3rd to add more evidence of voter fraud in the assembly election.