CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on Monday for political dialogue to establish “a great national peace agreement” following the referendum called by the opposition on July 16 in which more than 7.5 million Venezuelans voted against the government’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
“Despite the senselessness of the Venezuelan opposition, I reaffirm my call for peace dialogue, for political dialogue, for my absolute readiness to continue the talks that have begun and to bring about a great national agreement on peace, work, and prosperity,” Maduro said at the presidential palace in Caracas.
The president, who claimed to have taken on the title of “world champion of peace,” reiterated his calls to hold talks with the opposition alliance, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) despite the “fraud, bad intention” and “perversity” of the group.
Maduro said he was willing to talk and warned the opposition that time was ticking away.
The first vice president of the National Assembly, opposition leader Freddy Guevara, urged on behalf of the MUD the Venezuelan government to “properly read” the results of the July 16 plebiscite held by the opposition.
Guevara said he was ready to discuss solutions for the “collective tragedy” the country is experiencing if Maduro withdrew his proposal to change the legal system by electing representatives to a National Constituent Assembly on July 30, and restore “constitutional order” in the country.
Following the referendum on July 16, several countries in the region, the European Union and the United States have asked Maduro to withdraw his plan for the National Constituent Assembly, which was approved without a previous referendum.
According to Benjamin Scharifker, rector of the Metropolitan University (Unimet) in Caracas, more than 7.4 million of the total 7.54 million voters said yes to the three questions raised in the poll: they rejected the Constituent Assembly, they wanted armed forces to abide by the decisions of the National Assembly and protect the current Constitution, and they wished new elections to be called and a national unity government to be established.
“Three and a half million voters supported the Constituent Assembly proposed by President Chavez,” said the rector of the Pedagogical Experimental Libertador University, Raul Lopez, who compared the figure to the numbers of those rejecting the Constituent Assembly proposed by Maduro in the July 16 plebiscite.
The referendum called by the opposition was conducted without the participation of the Electoral Power, so there were no voter registrations. In addition, eligible voters were limited to all citizens over 18 years old, the only requirement to be allowed to vote, according to local legislation.
According to data released in 2017 by the National Electoral Council (CNE), which did not recognize the validity of the referendum, about 19.5 million citizens are eligible to vote in Venezuela.