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Message from the Secretary General on Venezuela

  July 14, 2017

Venezuela is going through a decisive moment. In play is the sovereignty of the people and the survival of the Constitution, the last link of the country with the rule of law.

In 100 days of citizen protests, nearly 100 people have been killed, the majority of them young people, many of them minors. The number of political prisoners has risen to 433 and 415 civilians have been brought before military courts. The systematic violating of human rights and basic freedoms is the worst attack against the Constitution.

The repressive forces have become an army of occupation in their own country.

The regime proposes more abuse, more repression, increasingly less freedom, and the tool that it proposes to institutionalize this is a Constituent Assembly. A Constituent Assembly imposed by decree, without the people and against the people, setting the will of the dictatorship above the popular will expressed through a universal and direct vote.

This regime has stopped pretending to be a democracy, as it used to do. It has consolidated itself as a dictatorship, where its illegitimacy now tries to become “constitutionalized.”

I echo the words of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference.

“The mentioned constituent project seeks to impose a dictatorial regime on the country. In addition, by privileging, in its composition, sectoral voting bases with no legal support, it violates the right of all to elect and be elected and the constitutional principle (Art. 63 CRBV) of the proportional representation of the population according to territorial distribution.”

And it underlines that: “The National Constituent Assembly would have supra-constitutional power, with the aim of eliminating the current state bodies, mainly the National Assembly, legitimately elected by the people.”

Therefore, this Sunday, July 16, a plebiscite has been convened to stop the definitive collapse of the country’s institutions. This plebiscite is promoted by the National Assembly, today established as the last legitimate power elected by the people of Venezuela, and pluralistic forces from the opposition and from chavismo, with the support of broad sectors of civil society.

The Bolivarian Constitution demands that the people be consulted prior to the convening of the Constituent Assembly, according to what is foreseen in article 348, which says “The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela.” In fact, in 1999 then-President Chávez consulted the people before and after reforming the Constitution, and he followed the results of the plebiscites. In this case, the President is trying to reform the Constitution by violating it and putting the desire of the regime to remain in power ahead of the sovereign will of the Venezuelan people. The attack of the Maduro regime against the legacy of Chávez is absolute.

Venezuelans can express themselves and participate actively in the plebiscite this Sunday, July 16, to mark the road to the return of democracy.

The plebiscite convened by the National Assembly is a tool covered in separate provisions of the Venezuelan Constitution, with the aim of ensuring that the sovereign people decide their own future by answering three questions:

First: Do you reject the holding of a Constituent Assembly proposed by Nicolás Maduro without the prior approval of the people of Venezuela?

Second: Do you demand that the National Armed Forces and all public officials obey and defend the Constitution of 1999 and support the decisions of the National Assembly?

Third: Do you approve of going ahead with elections for public powers in accordance with that established in the Constitution and the holding of free and transparent elections, as well as the formation of a National Unity government to restore constitutional order?

The Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 regulates and encourages the exercise of the plebiscite mechanism. In its article 5, it establishes that “sovereignty resides untransferably in the people, who exercise it directly in the manner provided for in this Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, through suffrage, through the bodies exercising public power.” It also promotes the mechanism of plebiscites in article 70, that regulates the means of participation and protagonism of the people in the exercise of their sovereignty, considering among them “the election of public offices, referendum, plebiscite, revocation of mandate, legislative, constitutional and constituent initiatives” among others.

The convening of a plebiscite at the initiative of the National Assembly is regulated in section 4 of article 187, which says: “It shall be the function of the National Assembly (…) to organize and promote citizen participation in matters within its competence (…).”

The spirit of strengthening of direct participation of the people appears clearly reflected in the Constitution of 1999 in articles 333 and 350:

Article 333 affirms that, “This Constitution shall not cease to be in effect if it ceases to be observed due to acts of force or because or repeal in any manner other than as provided for herein. In such eventuality, every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect.”

For its part, article 350 reads: “The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights.”

The responses to the attack on Venezuelan institutions lie in the Constitution itself.

The solution for Venezuela comes from Venezuelans and it lies in the ballot boxes. It lies in the Constitution that the National Assembly is urging compliance with. It lies in respect for the law. It lies in the exercise of popular sovereignty through free, universal and direct suffrage.

In the hemispheric community we understand that the mechanisms of direct participation not only make the spirit of democracy, but also strengthen and protect institutions, as we have reflected in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter expressly supports mechanisms for the direct participation of the people, as reflected in its article 2 “(…) Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened by permanent, ethical, and responsible participation of the citizenry within a legal framework conforming to the respective constitutional order.”

Article 6 deepens this concept establishing that “It is the right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decisions relating to their own development. This is also a necessary condition for the full and effective exercise of democracy. Promoting and fostering diverse forms of participation strengthens democracy.”

The patria grande is the homeland of freedom, democracy and human rights. That is the most valuable thing we share in the Americas.

We must not deviate from this path; that is why we cannot abandon Venezuela. The international community faces a moral obligation and an ethical responsibility to contribute to Venezuela´s return to democracy.

Reference: S-018/17