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Fraught vote Switzerland urges Venezuela to reverse course

The Swiss Foreign ministry has said it is “deeply concerned” about the current situation in Venezuela and that the election of a new constituent assembly in the country should be scrapped.

Demonstrators in Caracas protest against plans to create a new 'constituent assembly'.

(Keystone)

The statementexternal link, released Saturday by the foreign ministry, comes as Venezuelans prepare to vote on a controversial new body which critics say will cement power in the hands of President Nicolás Maduro.

According to Bern, such a move merely “heightens tension and reinforces the divisions within society, and could thus lead to a further escalation of violence.”

Respecting the separation of powers, a genuine dialogue aimed at a peaceful resolution of the current crisis should be opened, it said. “Setting a binding election timetable that is accepted by all sides is an urgent priority.”

A country divided

Venezuela has seen waves of protests break out in recent months, particularly following a decree in March which attempted to strip parliament (controlled by the opposition party) of many powers.

Over 100 people have since died in violent confrontations between the army, who back the president, and opponents of the government who are worried that current decisions are leading to a centralised Cuba-style regime.

All of this takes place against a backdrop of severe economic conditions: inflation is in triple figures, the economy has contracted by 35% in four years, and food shortages have led to widespread hunger and emigration.

Maduro, who took over from charismatic President Chavez in 2013, maintains that resurrecting the constituent assembly – a group of 181 people directly chosen by the government, plus 364 directly-elected – is the best way to safeguard “the peace of the country”.

International concern

The Swiss declaration, which also deplored human rights violations in Venezuela and the increasing resort to violence, is not the only international condemnation in recent days.

The United States, who already impose sanctions against Venezuela, stepped up the pressure with President Trump promisingexternal link “strong and swift economic actions” if the assembly comes into effect.

Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, also urgedexternal link Maduro earlier this week to “change course and break the deadlock for all Venezuelans.”


swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos

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