The United States has been governed by a constitution that has, with the exception of introducing new amendments, stayed relatively the same for over 200 years. Venezuela hasn’t been so lucky, however, as the country has changed the basis of its governing constitution plenty of times as political parties come and go.
And now, President Maduro is set to rewrite the entire document.
The last time Venezuela experienced a constitution change was in 1999, under the late Hugo Chavez. This change served as a springboard to a socialist revolution, and since then the country has been governed solely by socialist leaders. Maduro, who has been in office since 2013, has started the official process of rewriting the country’s charter earlier this month. As food and drug shortages roil the country, Maduro’s latest actions have caused more unrest and political upheaval across the nation.
Protests have littered the entire country since Maduro’s announcement. Two people were killed when their bus was trying to get past a barricade set up for a protest. These two fatalities bring the number of deaths due to unrest in the country up to 32 for the past month.
While Maduro’s intentions are unknown, some political advisors believe he is going through the process as a way to extend his presidency and locking in the current government. Originally, there were regional elections set for 2018, but many socialists feared they wouldn’t be reelected due to continuing economic, medical, and social crises in the poverty-ridden country.
When Maduro announced his intentions to his government, the opposition majority congress expressed their disapproval by saying the decision to change the constitution should go to a country-wide vote. However, this objection was merely symbolic, as the congress does not have any right to block a congressional assembly.
There is no word on how the congressional assembly responsible for making the changes will be chosen. Maduro has hinted to the press that they will be voted in, but those in the government believe these positions of authority will go to Maduro’s fellow socialists.
Maduro’s decision has prompted the Brazilians to describe this action as a “coup,” and the U.S. State Department has threatened to impose further economic sanctions if the rewrite goes through.
For Venezuelans, unrest in their country is becoming the new normal. Chauffeur Ricardo Herrera explains to Time that his country wasn’t always this way. As he was arranging trash and a concrete block barricade in front of his apartment building, he explained, “Unlike some of these young people, I remember a time before the socialists. Now is not the time for fear.”