Millions of Venezuelans are participating in a general strike today in a last-ditch attempt to stop the country’s socialist president from rewriting the Constitution. After a referendum in which just over 7 million Venezuelans voted against the plan to create a new constitution last weekend, the opposition announced plans for what it calls “zero hour.” From Reuters:
From the Andes to the Amazon, millions appeared to be participating in the 24-hour shutdown, staying at home and closing businesses in a civil disobedience campaign the opposition hopes will end nearly two decades of socialist rule.
“We must all do our best to get rid of this tyrant,” said Miguel Lopez, 17, holding a homemade shield emblazoned with “No To Dictatorship!” as he manned a roadblock on a Caracas thoroughfare that was devoid of traffic…
In a speech, Maduro vowed some of the strike leaders would be jailed and insisted the action was minimal, with the 700 leading food businesses, for example, still working.
The public response to this strike has been significant, especially compared to a similar effort last October. From the Associated Press:
Business groups estimate that 150,000 Venezuelan businesses have closed over the last 15 years. The opposition called a 12-hour national strike last year that saw little response and was widely seen as a failure.
The Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation, a labor coalition with ties to the opposition, said at least 12 of its 20 member organizations across the country had decided to join the strike. Transportation workers in the capital, Caracas, also said they would participate…
“We urgently need a change in government, because what we are living through is pathetic,” said Frangeli Fernandez, 24, an accountant who walked three hours to his job at a bank.
President Maduro ignored last week’s vote and is promising the vote to elect people who will rewrite the constitution will take place at the end of the month as scheduled. The effort is widely seen as an attempt by Maduro to cling to power, giving him an excuse to seize more power and hold off on elections.
However, opposition to Maduro’s regime is building. President Trump issued a strongly worded statement threatening economic sanctions after last week’s vote. And the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) says there is fear the situation could turn into a blood bath:
The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) has warned of a “calamitous deterioration” of the situation in Venezuela.
“The fear we have, and which we are afraid to say out loud, is that this situation could turn into a bloodbath,” he said.
The warning came shortly before a 24-hour strike began on Thursday.
The AFP published this video of empty streets in the country: