Venezuela ‘is sinking,’ Capriles fears


As food riotslooting and police crackdowns shake Venezuela, the political opposition has increased its pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to accept a referendum on his rule, TIME reports:

On June 7 opposition leader Henrique Capriles led a march to the headquarters of the country’s electoral board in support of a referendum, but police stopped him from arriving and fired tear gas at him. …Despite the confrontations, Capriles told TIME he is confident that Maduro will eventually concede to holding the referendum this year, and new elections will end 17 years of rule by the socialist party of the late Hugo Chavez. He claims the Venezuelan military has already put pressure on the president to accept the first signatures calling for the recall vote, which were filed in May, and that there are other dissenters in the Maduro administration.

“There is very strong division on the side of the government, because the country is sinking,” Capriles said. “The armed forces are arriving at a difficult hour, decisive, and they are going have to take a decision: are they with Maduro, or are they with the constitution.”

U.S. experts believe that the Venezuelan military is likely to side with the parliamentary opposition, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius notes.

“The military has a feel for where this is going,” said one analyst. “They don’t want their country to collapse. They don’t want to be on the wrong side.”

Venezuela risks being torn apart – recall or no recall, observers suggest.

The one institutional factor that is keeping Venezuela’s government alive is the judicial shield, says Javier Corrales, Professor of Political Science at Amherst College, noting that the Supreme Court has sided entirely with the executive branch to invalidate every act of Congress, thereby disarming the opposition. But in recent weeks Corrales has also recognized something that could potentially bring down the Maduro administration: electoral irregularities.

Risky recall?

If the opposition does eventually succeed in forcing a recall vote, there are a number of laws in place to prevent it from succeeding, analyst Joshua Spivak writes for Foreign Affairs:

The basic structure of such a vote is simple: it is usually either a new election or a simple referendum on whether the official should stay in office, followed by a second vote for his replacement. But in Venezuela, recall laws require opponents to win a new election with more votes than the incumbent won in the previous election, and more than 25 percent of registered voters must turn up. This means that Maduro’s opponents must bring in more than the 7,587,579 votes Maduro received in 2013. (Because the seven million votes are more than 25 percent of registered voters, voter turnout would not likely be much of an issue.)

As Venezuela teeters on the brink of economic collapse, its problems are roiling the Organization of American States, an institution that faces its own dire financial crisis under a new leader who is pushing it to focus more on human rights and democracy, The Washington Post adds.

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