Venezuela steps closer towards ‘dictatorship’

What happened?

Violence erupted on the streets of Venezuela last weekend as President Nicolás Maduro strengthened his grip on the country. A vote, boycotted by the opposition, elected members of a constituent assembly which will dissolve the opposition-led Congress and write a new constitution for the country. President Maduro said the poll was a “vote for the revolution”, but, according to the opposition, 88 per cent of voters abstained. Critics say Maduro is turning the country into a dictatorship.

What the media are saying

The Daily Telegraph headlined the story: “Maduro ‘power grab’ victory”. It quoted a US state department spokesman as saying that the constituent assembly aimed to “undermine the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination”. Sky News – whose reporter dramatically came under fire from police on motorbikes live on air on Sunday – said that “Venezuela is beginning to resemble a war.” Sky’s Stuart Ramsay wrote: “Weeks of confrontation, flats raided and set on fire by the police, shootings of unarmed civilians, Molotov cocktails and roadside bombs, injured police, armed pro-government militias roaming the streets at night and now the military deployed. It’s the stuff of nightmares.” The Venezuelan government dismissed foreign press reports as “a targeted media campaign to destabilise the country”.

What the bishops are saying

The bishops have been vocal critics of the Maduro regime. Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said it must take the blame for at least 10 deaths related to the vote. “This is the responsibility of the president of the republic, the high command and the ministers,” he told the El Nacional newspaper. “They will have to explain this to God.” Before the vote the cardinal had said: “The country is in ruins, people are dying of hunger, there are a number of children dying every month in the hospitals. This demonstrates that the government has not been on top of the circumstances … Most Venezuelans don’t want the constitutional assembly.”

Days before the referendum the bishops said the vote was “unconstitutional” and “damaging to the Venezuelan people”.

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