Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has offered his opponents a deal to delay the upcoming Constitutional Assembly elections for 45 days, giving the opposition a chance to participate, and hold a new presidential election in exchange for their help lobbying against U.S. sanctions, a report published this week claims.
According to the Miami Herald, Maduro’s deal would also require the opposition-controlled National Assembly to recall 33 judges it just appointed, and arrange a “cooling down” of street protests.
The latter demand might prove to be a tall order, given how hot those street protests have become in advance of Maduro’s push for Constitutional Assembly elections this weekend—a move even some of his Socialist Party allies see as a naked attempt to rig the legislature in Maduro’s favor.
For their part, his opponents have taken to plastering election centers with political posters, commemorating those killed in the riots as martyrs to the resistance against a Communist takeover, and arranging a 48-hour general strike. Maduro’s National Guard troops paid their respects to the dead by roaring up to the memorial services on motorcycles and pelting them with tear-gas grenades.
This does not sound like the kind of situation that can be ratcheted down by agreeing to a political bargain. Judging from the reactions collected by the Miami Herald, the opposition is not going for it, anyway. So far, they are standing firm behind their demand for Maduro to cancel the Constitutional Assembly vote outright. If the election proceeds according to Maduro’s schedule on Sunday, the rules have been arranged to guarantee he will end up with control of the Assembly despite having lost the July referendum on his plans to increase his constitutional powers by 98 percent, and holding a current popularity rating of about ten percent.
A source in Washington told the Herald that Maduro wants help from opposition leaders to lobby against new sanctions imposed against 13 senior Venezuelan officials by the Trump administration for human rights abuses, corruption, and undermining democracy.
The sanctions announced on Wednesday are seen as a warning to Maduro, a small taste of the “strong and swift economic actions” President Donald Trump has threatened if the Constitutional Assembly election proceeds this weekend. The strongest of those actions would be sanctions against state oil company PDVSA, which could risk bringing down what remains of the Venezuelan economy and coalescing nationalist support around Maduro.
Among those listed in the new round of sanctions against the country are major officials in the socialist government who had previously avoided sanctions, such as Tibisay Lucena, the head of the nation’s electoral commission who has supported the new constitutional assembly, and Tarek William Saab, the national ombudsman, whose son has become a regular participant in opposition protests.
“The government fell into its own trap. It proposed the Constitutional Assembly with the intention of trapping the opposition, and it wound up falling into its own trap because the opposition is obeying the will of the street and refused to participate,” Venezuelan American Leadership Council President Martin Rodil told the Miami Herald. “At the end of the day, they found themselves in an untenable position because it’s causing cracks within the armed forces and because they may soon be hit with sanctions.”