Venezuela’s opposition called Monday for a 24-hour nationwide strike to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to drop plans to rewrite the constitution while the United States threatened “strong and swift economic actions” against his socialist administration if it ignores the will of voters in a referendum.
US President Donald Trump joined other world leaders in urging Maduro to heed Sunday’s symbolic plebiscite in which millions of voters rejected the plan to remake Venezuela’s political system, which the opposition calls a power grab by the ruling party as it struggles with shortages, inflation and more than 100 days of anti-government protests.
The vote came two weeks before Venezuela’s government will hold an election to select a constituent assembly charged with rewriting the constitution. Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the EU have also come out against the effort.
“The US will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” Trump said in a statement. “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the US will take strong and swift economic actions.”
The US president lauded voters in Sunday’s referendum, saying “their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”
Despite the global and domestic calls for him to cancel the constituent assembly, Maduro vowed to press ahead with it.
“I won’t be intimidated,” Venezuela’s president said in a speech at the presidential palace. 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.
On Monday, opposition leaders laid out their plans about how they will resist Maduro in the wake of the referendum.
They said the opposition-controlled National Assembly would name new members to the government-dominated Supreme Court, setting up a showdown with Maduro. Opposition parties also said they plan to sign a declaration calling for the formation of an alternative “government of national unity,” a step toward total rejection of government authority.
“Overall the package is pretty radical, especially the idea of a parallel government,” said David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela. “I think it could lead to real chaos.”
He noted, however, that the opposition moves were to be implemented in phases over the next week, giving both sides the opportunity to negotiate possible concessions.