Venezuela has reached the 'zero hour': What's next?

With tension high following opposition's unofficial referendum, analysts see country heading into uncharted waters.

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    Story highlights

    More than 90 people have been killed in Venezuela in 109 days of protests marked by clashes.

    Opposition leaders said Venezuela's democracy has reached a tipping point, and they called for a 24-hour national strike, after 7.6 million people rejected a Constituent Assembly that aims to rewrite the constitution.

    "We are calling all the country to take part in a massive and violence-free protest through a nationwide civic strike for 24 hours," said a leader in the opposition coalition, Freddy Guevara.

    The nation needs to re-legitimise the public government, but ultimately people are the ones who decide who that government is

    Jose Haro , lawyer

    The opposition has ensured that the resistance now enters a new stage, the "zero hour".

    It said it would also take steps to set up a 'national unity' government and name new alternative judges to the pro-Maduro supreme court.

    This action opens the possible scenario of a parallel state structure to challenge government-controlled institutions.

    "The nation needs to re-legitimise the public government, but ultimately people are the ones who decide who that government is, everything needs to happen through the people's vote, elections should not be evaded," Jose Haro, a lawyer and human-rights defender, said.

    READ MORE: Venezuelan opposition calls for nationwide strike 

    We are looking for a response of peace and a constitutional response

    General Oviedo, member of the government

    Maduro confirmed his willingness to go to a national dialogue. "I am willing to dialogue, I've been calling them to dialogue for months, but the divisions between them do not let them," he criticised the political opposition.

    "We are looking for a response of peace and a constitutional response, the [opposition] table is composed of a group who do not accept the rules, the president made a call for peace, and call for people to respect the law and the Constitution," General Oviedo said.

    But what is the zero hour, and what is next for the country?

    Zero hour

    "The zero hour is nothing more than an exercise to curb the actions of the regime, so that the initiative of having a National Constituent Assembly paralyses, so that the citizenship can take control of the country," Rachid Yasbek, general coordinator of First Justice in the State of Bolivar and a deputy in the National Assembly, told Al Jazeera.

    The strike is a warning, we won't stop, if this attitude continues, we will strike, permanently

    Rachid Yasbek, member of the opposition 

    "This involves taking the streets permanently, in order to be able to have a government legislated by the people," he said.

    "The strike is a warning; we won't stop, if this attitude continues, we will strike, permanently."

    The opposition-controlled National Assembly said they would name new members to the government-dominated supreme court.

    "We have already opened the process. We will have a government legislated by the people, we will have the current constitution of 1999 vs a strange modification that they want to implement, our government will be that one of the citizen, it will be with the people," Yasbek said. 

    "More than changing Nicolas Maduro, we want to change a regime, a system, that has been a failure for the country." 

    Opposition leader Freddy Guevara announced the first 24-hour strike on Monday.

    What were the questions and the results of the unofficial referendum?

    The following results were announced on Sunday night.

    Question: Do you reject and ignore the realisation of a Constituent Assembly proposed by Nicolas Maduro without the prior approval of the Venezuelan people?

    • 98.4% (6,387,854) of the total voted yes 
    • 0.13% (8440) of the total voted no 

    Question: Do you demand that the National Armed Forces and all public officials obey and defend the Constitution of 1999 and support the decisions of the National Assembly?

    • 98.5% (6,393,048) of the total voted yes
    • 0.12% (7791) of the total voted no 

    Question: Do you approve the renewal of public powers in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, and the holding of free and transparent elections, as well as the formation of a government of national unity to restore constitutional order?

    • 98.3% (6,384,697) of the total voted yes
    • 0.14% (9089) of the total voted no  

    What is next for the country? 

    The government will not change its course. Maduro has called on his opponents to sit down to start a new round of dialogue with his government.

    The constituent continues, and once it is installed the right mechanisms will be created, so that within the constitution and the legal frame people can respond for its legal and illegal acts

    General Oviedo

    "The constituent continues, and once it is installed the right mechanisms will be created so that within the constitution and the legal frame people can respond for its legal and illegal acts," General Oviedo said.

    The opposition will continue with its plans as well; the National Assembly approved a final report presented on  Tuesday for the appointment of 33 new judges to the Supreme Court of Justice, who will be sworn in next Friday in a session of the parliament.

    "The National Assembly has the faculty to do this, but they have to assign professional jurists, autonomous, independent, they cannot assign deputies, they cannot vote for themselves, and they cannot choose members of the opposition, the need to follow the rule of law," Haro, the rights defender, says.

    Leaders of the Democratic Unity coalition say they will bring the country to a halt with a 24-hour general strike on Thursday, urging workers to stay home and businesses to shut their doors to protest Maduro's plan to overhaul Venezuela's constitution.

    "This situation won't last long. The political advance of Venezuela is formidable; we can organise and have elections immediately ... a few months for us to call for the renewal of powers, and then we will be able to legitimise citizens' power," Yasbek said.

    President Maduro, announced he has activated the nation's Defense Council, "to fully respond to the imperial threat."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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