The Latest: Venezuela opposition eases alternate gov't plan
Jul. 19, 2017
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela, where opponents of President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution have called a general strike for Thursday. (all times local):
A coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties has backed away from a plan to take a big step toward total rejection of government authority.
The Democratic Unity coalition is made up of some 20 opposition groups. It had said it would sign a declaration Wednesday calling for the formation of an alternative "government of national unity."
Instead it released a declaration of steps the opposition would take if it comes to power, including addressing food and medicine shortages. The opposition also reiterated its call for a general strike starting Thursday.
Venezuela's defense minister says the army will be deployed next week for a national vote to select members of a constitutional assembly that will reshape the country's political system.
Gen. Vladimir Padrino says "the soldiers of the homeland will be deployed far and wide" across the country July 30.
He said on national television that the government will activate "Plan Republic," a contingency that involves sending thousands of soldiers to protect voting centers and materials. The plan has been activated in past elections.
Residents of Venezuela's capital say they are blocking streets on their own initiative to voice frustration ahead of a general strike in protest of a government push to rewrite the constitution.
Protester Jimmy Arvelo says he and neighbors set up a barricade of tree trunks and tires in his Caracas neighborhood. Arvelo says they are protesting peacefully, but "we are resisting."
Such roadblocks paralyzed much of Caracas on Wednesday, with some public bus lines shutting down.
Venezuela is in the throes of a political crisis that has seen months of protests in which scores of people have died.
The government intends to hold a July 30 election to select an assembly charged with rewriting the nation's charter.
President Nicolas Maduro's allies have called on the assembly to impose executive-branch authority over the few remaining institutions outside the control of the ruling party.
The Vatican is voicing support for Venezuelan Roman Catholic clergy, who have come out against the government's plans to rewrite the constitution.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin is the pope's secretary of state. He writes to Caracas Archbishop Jorge Urosa that he has prayed for "a peaceful and democratic solution for the country, and for the authorities to hear the people's calls for liberty, reconciliation and peace."
The Episcopal Conference of Venezuela says Urosa was trapped in a church with hundreds of people Sunday when a pro-government motorcycle gang attacked people waiting to cast symbolic votes in an opposition-organized referendum protesting the rewriting of the nation's charter.
President Nicolas Maduro criticized the Venezuelan Church in a nationally televised address Tuesday night.
He said "We are not the Christians of the traitorous cardinals who serve the capitalists and perverts of the world."
Protesters have set up spontaneous roadblocks across Venezuela's capital a day before a general strike planned by opponents of government plans to rewrite the constitution.
Homemade barricades blocked streets throughout Caracas on Wednesday morning, paralyzing activity. Some public bus lines also shut down, forcing passengers to walk miles to work.
Venezuela's government intends to hold a July 30 election to select an assembly charged with rewriting the nation's charter. President Nicolas Maduro's allies have called on the assembly to impose executive-branch authority over the few remaining institutions outside the control of the ruling party.
Renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, a target of criticism for his closeness to the government, came out against the assembly in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday.