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Latin America

Venezuelan opposition wins ‘super majority’ it needs for major reform

Maduro promises to veto any political prisoner amnesty law coming out of new Assembly

El presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro
President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday. REUTERS

Venezuela’s opposition coalition has obtained the important two-thirds majority in the National Assembly that it needs to undertake major reform following Sunday’s legislative elections, the country’s electoral body confirmed late Tuesday.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition would have 112 seats in the 167-member assembly, including the three deputies who represent Venezuela’s indigenous communities that are allied with the opposition bloc.

We will have a constitutional, revolutionary and, above all, a socialist reaction to every measure that comes out of the Assembly”

President Nicolás Maduro

The remaining 55 seats went to President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which was delivered a stunning blow by voters on Sunday.

Although the weekend vote passed off peacefully, political tensions are on the rise in Caracas.

On Tuesday, Maduro asked for the resignations of all his Cabinet members and promised to veto a measure proposed by the opposition that calls for the immediate release of political prisoners, including opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is serving a 13-year sentence for violence stemming from nationwide protests held in February 2014.

“We will have a constitutional, revolutionary and, above all, a socialist reaction to every measure that comes out of the Assembly,” the Venezuelan leader said during his weekly television program.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said: “Maduro should read the results of the election, make a gesture by releasing political prisoners, and call the country together in national unity.”

“I will not accept any amnesty law, because they violated human rights,” Maduro said. “They can send me a thousand laws but the murderers have to be prosecuted.”

Maduro has pledged to pass a fast-track law that will protect the jobs of government workers and public servants in the different ministries and agencies for three years before new Assembly members are sworn in on January 9.

He also asked current parliamentary leaders to appoint 12 new justices to the Supreme Court before the end of the year.

The Venezuelan president has called the PSUV’s 980 party delegates to a special meeting in Caracas on Thursday to come up with strategies “for the new era that is coming.”

“We will take to the streets to defend you [PSUV voters] and defend the revolution,” said Jorge Rodríguez, mayor of the Caracas municipality of Libertador, who served as the PSUV’s campaign manager.

Obtaining 112 seats in the National Assembly was crucial for the MUD. A two-thirds majority will give the opposition broad powers to appoint and remove officials in other government institutions, such as justices on the Supreme Court and members of the CNE.

To me the priorities are the economy, society and the insecurity that there is in Venezuela”

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles

MUD deputies will also be able to push for referendums, constitutional reforms and enact organic laws – as they are known in Venezuela – which help develop guarantees for citizens.

“To me the priorities are the economy, society and the insecurity that there is in Venezuela,” said opposition leader Henrique Capriles in an interview with EL PAÍS. “We are going to have to question all the economy and finance ministers and they will have to render accounts. We need to know what the official inflation rate is since we haven’t had any numbers since last December.”

Venezuela is suffering from severe food shortages brought on in part by the global drop in oil prices and inefficient government policies. At the same time, rampant crime has positioned Venezuela as the second-most-dangerous country in the world in some rankings.

After polls closed in Sunday’s historic race, in which nearly 75 percent of eligible voters participated, the CNE reported that the MUD coalition had won 99 seats and the PSUV 46. Based on their own calculations, opposition officials maintained that they had achieved a two-thirds “super majority” of 112 deputies and pushed the CNE to speed up the vote count for the remaining seats.

Some opposition leaders charged that CNE members were aligned with the Maduro government because they were dragging their feet in releasing the total tally.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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