The Venezuelan government is plotting a new attack on democracy and institutionalism, which has the potential to further aggravate the unsustainable political and democratic crisis that has held that nation hostage for years. On this occasion, Nicolás Maduro’s regime is evaluating to advance legislative elections scheduled for December 2020.

Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela´s Constituent National Assembly, recently announced this move, which could have a severe effect, that is to reduce the term of the only Venezuelan institution whose democratic legitimacy has never been questioned and which enjoys unconditional international recognition.

If this reckless measure succeeds then the regime would virtually eliminate the last chance to find a constitutional solution to the crossroads that have plunged Venezuela into the most severe humanitarian crisis Latin America has seen in decades.

Maduro's regime has never shown prudence. But on this occasion, it is necessary to demand him not to take this terrible step.

The December 2015 legislative elections, which the opposition won overwhelmingly, were the last fully democratic exercise to take place in Venezuela.  Opposition parties, gathered at the Democratic Unity Table (MUD, Spanish acronym), won 112 of 167 seats, while chavismo organizations, under the Great Patriotic Pole Simón Bolívar, got 55.

Since the National Assembly started in January 2016, Chavismo has boycotted it, to the point that the government-allied Supreme Court of Justice declared all its actions null and void. The final and most serious attack came when, breaking the constitutional order, Maduro called for the creation of the ANC in August 2017, tasked with drafting a new constitution and to which he gave more powers than to the National Assembly, which has been inoperative since then.

It was the ANC that called the May 2018 controversial presidential elections Maduro won,  which almost all opposition parties boycotted and that the international community did not recognize.

The National Assembly does not recognize Maduro and last January, as provided in the Constitution when the presidency is vacant, appointed its president, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela´s “president in charge”, while new elections are held. Nearly 50 countries, including the United States, Puerto Rico and Venezuela’s most important neighbors, recognize Guaidó, not Maduro, as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

While all this was happening, the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis worsened in unimaginable ways, with millions of Venezuelans starving, dying of curable diseases and leaving the country in the biggest exodus in Latin America´s recent history. Meanwhile, the regime intensified its control through repression and violence, as demonstrated in a devastating report on Venezuela presented last month by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Maduro’s regime can no longer play with the lives and hopes of the millions of Venezuelans who, inside and outside the battered country, hope for a peaceful solution to this long-standing impasse. Venezuela deserves to recover the vigorous democracy it once had, and that can only be guaranteed by calling for free and fair presidential elections, observed by the international community and in without legal tricks preventing opposition parties from participating.

Any other course of action would only lead to aggravating an already untenable situation.

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