By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Neighbors took to the streets in the capital city of Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela Tuesday, prompting embattled President Nicolas Maduro to announce a series of vague, yet martial sounding, measures to fully counter a threat from, “the empire”, “chavista” parlance for the U.S.A.
Washington has ratcheted up the anti-Maduro discourse Monday and Tuesday and the Venezuelan President is apparently getting ready to counter it with more repression.
“I have decided to activate the Nation’s Defense Council,” a tweet in Maduro’s official account read. “According to Article 323 of the Constitution, in order to answer integrally the imperial threat.”
According to the Constitution (the same one Maduro is trying to replace), the National Defense Council (“Consejo de Defensa de la Nacion” in Spanish) is the “top organ of consultation for the planning and advice to the Public Power in matters relating to the integral defense of the Nation, its sovereignty, and the integrity of the geographic space” and is presided by the President and comprised of the Executive Vice President (Tareck El Aissami, a Specially Designated National by U.S. Treasury) but also of the President of the National Assembly, which is opposition-dominated and headed by anti-Maduro stalwart Julio Borges; Maikel Moreno, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and also an SDN; the President of the Republican Moral Council and the ministers of Defense, homeland security (interior), foreign affairs and planning.”
"No foreign government gives orders or rules over our homeland," Maduro said, calling the National Defense Council. " Venezuelans are the ones who rule here. Here the people rule."
On Monday, US President Donald Trump warned that if Venezuela proceeded with the Constituent National Assembly on July 30, the US "will take strong and swift economic actions."
Trump also urged Maduro to recognize the will of 7.6 million Venezuelans who voted against his Constituent Assembly plans in a plebiscite on Sunday.
"The answer will be very strong in defense of the historic anti-colonial and anti-imperialist heritage of our homeland. United we are invincible," Maduro responded. MEANWHILE, SPORADIC PROTESTS
Tuesday’s protests were not called by MUD, the opposition coalition that is organizing a national, 24 hours general strike for Thursday.
Students shut down the Metropolitan overpass, one of the main entrances into Caracas, while demonstrators faced down National Guard and pro-Maduro “colectivo” biker gangs in Barquisimeto, Central Venezuela.
Again a newsperson was assaulted by government forces during protests’ coverage, this time it was the chief of information of the “El Carabobeno” newspaper in Carabobo state, Carolina Gonzalez.
As it is, Maduro is reeling from 109 days of continuous protest which have left 116 Venezuelans dead, the vast majority of which are anti-government demonstrators, according to the Attorney General’s Office.