The head of Venezuela’s anti-socialist opposition in the legislature denounced an attempt to “lynch” multiple lawmakers by a mob of about 300 Chavistas following the legislature’s decision to declare an aberration from the constitutional order and accuse president Nicolás Maduro of a coup d’etat.
Maduro’s electoral commission rejected over the weekend a constitutionally permissible petition attempt to recall Maduro and stage early elections.
The head of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Jesús Torrealba, accused the Chavista government of using “physical force” to suppress the demand for a free and democratic government in the South American country. According to Torreabla, “some 300 thugs attempted to lynch some legislators, who were elected by eight million Venezuelans.”
“This regime has no other way to perpetuate itself in power than violence,” he continued. “In Venezuela, an assault to the Parliament like this had not happened in over 200 years.”
He did not specify whether the legislators in question were safe, though it is assumed they survived the attack. The report of such a mob attack follows video coming out of Caracas showing Chavista thugs dressed in red storming the National Assembly, chanting the communist catchphrase “the people united will never be defeated.”
The opposition had for months been working on an attempt to recall Maduro. The Venezuelan constitution allows for a recall election in the event that the group organizing the effort submits to the Electoral Commission signatures representing 20 percent of the registered voting population in each state, about 1.8 million signatures. While the opposition leadership submitted the signatures and say they have not found any irregularities in the documentation, the Maduro government rejected the signatures and rendered the recall effort void over the weekend.
In addition, the government issued decrees banning major opposition leaders from leaving the country, including Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Miranda state governor who ran for president twice against Maduro and lost under dubious circumstances.
Since late 2015, the MUD have a majority in the country’s National Assembly, and they used their leverage to strike back against the unexplained rejection of the recall signatures over the weekend. In a detailed resolution, the Assembly called the rejection of the signatures a “coup d’etat.” The Electoral Commission, the decree reads, “decided without a solid reasoning and with no constitutional authority to deprive the Venezuelan people of the right to recall, compromising the peace and stability of the nation.”
The decree “declares the rupture of the constitutional order and the existence of a coup d’etat committed by the Nicolás Maduro regime against the Constitution,” and it prohibits the Armed Forces from obeying Maduro as commander in chief. It also requires legislators to take the case to the International Criminal Court and form a special commission to aid in the restoration of constitutional order.
The legislature will be investigating the possibility that Maduro has “dual nationality,” as well — for years, rumors have swirled that Maduro was born in Colombia and has used counterfeit documentation to be eligible to run the country. Venezuelan presidents must be born in Venezuela.
Lastly, the order demands that “the people of Venezuela be convened to exercise… the active, constant, and valiant defense of our Constitution,” an order left deliberately vague.
Capriles appears to have taken the lead on the last provision, organizing a nationwide march against Maduro for Wednesday, October 26. He has not discarded the possibility that the march will lead thousands of people to protest in front of the presidential palace in Caracas. While Maduro has typically repressed these marches with violence, ordering the military and National Guard to attack unarmed protesters, the National Assembly has forbidden the armed forces from obeying Maduro. It is uncertain how the military will react to the decree. Should soldiers be unwilling to attack the protesters, armed Chavista gangs, known as “colectivos,” are likely to act in defense of Maduro.