July 26 (UPI) — The Venezuelan opposition on Wednesday started a two-day national strike to protest President Nicolas Maduro‘s upcoming attempt to rewrite the country’s constitution.
The opposition has criticized Maduro’s Constituent Assembly — scheduled for Sunday — as an attempt to establish a dictatorship in which the assembly’s powers would be further weakened.
In Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, Venezuelans will elect 545 members who will begin work within three days to draft a new constitution. There are about 6,000 candidates nationwide.
Maduro said the priorities assembly members must keep in mind are the need for peace, the improvement of Venezuela’s economy, defense against foreign intervention and support for government socialist programs.
Earlier this month, the opposition held an unofficial referendum in which more than seven million Venezuelans voted to reject Maduro’s changes to the constitution.
The vote attempted to determine what Venezuelans think about key criticisms against Maduro’s regime — that Venezuela’s institutions, including security forces and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice court, work in Maduro’s favor; that the National Assembly has been stripped of power; and that a majority of Venezuelans support the removal of Maduro as president.
“The owners of this land of grace are the people! Our Venezuela is still in the struggle today,” Henrique Capriles Radonski, a key opposition leader, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The opposition also said the Constituent Assembly is Maduro’s attempt to sidestep regional and presidential elections that would weaken his socialist party’s stance in government.