Morning Star | 24 October, 2016
VENEZUELA’S socialist government exposed at the weekend the right-wing opposition’s plans for a coup, set to begin on Wednesday.
United Socialist Party (PSUV) parliamentary group vice-president Diosdado Cabello presented evidence of the conspiracy — dubbed “Plan Rock ’n’ Roll” — to reporters on Saturday.
That followed a press conference by the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition on Friday night where leaders made veiled threats against the government.
Mr Cabello produced a schedule for the regime change plot found on the phone of Mud affiliate Popular Will (VP) councillor Jose Vicente Garcia, arrested last week in possession of hand grenades and bullet-proof vests.
The pretext for the coup was to be the MUD’s unsuccessful campaign for a recall referendum against PSUV president Nicolas Maduro — currently abroad on state business.
Its first phase, opposition to court and National Electoral Council (CNE) rulings on the process, had already begun.
The next phase would include a general strike and campaign of civil disobedience starting on Wednesday and the presentation of an unofficial “people’s petition” on Friday with a claimed seven million signatures, with NGOs present to give the move credibility.
Next Monday, MUD would march to the National Assembly, where it has a two-thirds majority, to present the petition.Events would escalate rapidly from then on, with the Francisco Miranda air base outside Caracas to be “taken” on November 5 and a march on the Miraflores presidential palace on November 10.
Mr Cabello said the government was awaiting the arrival of a papal envoy to continue dialogue with the opposition, as both sides met separately with mediator and former Spanish PM Jose Luis Zapatero.
At Friday’s press conference Mud-affiliate Justice First party leader Henrique Capriles called the petition postponement “a coup.”
National Assembly speaker and Democratic Action (AD) party secretary-general Henry Ramos claimed the recall was a “life-buoy” to the government: “So that it may go in a constitutional way and not a violent, abrupt exit.”
Washington-based Organisation of American States secretary-general Luis Almagro and US State Department spokesman John Kirby both weighed in on the Mud’s side over the weekend, claiming the CNE’s postponement of the recall petitioning was undemocratic.
Mud needs to gather 3.9 million petition signatures — 20 per cent of registered voters — to trigger a referendum. To win, it needs not only a majority but more votes in favour than the nearly 7.6 million to elect Mr Maduro in 2013.
But the late start to the process and Thursday’s postponement of petitioning set to start this Wednesday on evidence of fraud in earlier stages means no plebiscite can be held until after January 15, the half-way point in Mr Maduro’s term of office.
After that point Vice-President Aristubulo Isturiz would take the top job in event of a recall.
Britain’s Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) pointed out that Mud had deliberately sabotaged their recall referendum campaign — launching it in May rather than January when they assumed a majority in the National Assembly and producing hundreds of thousands of fraudulent signatures, including those of 11,000 deceased voters.
VSC secretary Francisco Dominguez said: “The chief reason for this is deep divisions within the Mud with sections sabotaging the whole process.
“Mud’s most extreme currents, unsurprisingly, have announced they will be resorting to unconstitutional, illegal and violent means to oust the legitimate, constitutional and democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.
“This has been the declared aim since Mud won the elections to the National Assembly in December 2015.
“Violence is the path they have chosen — such as the April 2002 coup d’etat — every time they fail in their undemocratic aims.”