[JURIST] Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro [Reuters profile] pledged Thursday to hold a referendum on a new controversial constitution that he has proposed. Maduro’s pledge [Reuters report] to rewrite the national charter [text, PDF] has led to two months of protests [NPR report] in which at least 62 people have been killed. Maduro’s pledge came after criticism from opponents that his plan to rewrite the charter was anti-democratic. In response to criticism, Maduro said on state television, “I shall propose it explicitly: the new constitution will go to a consultative referendum so it is the people who say whether they are in agreement or not with the new, strengthened constitution.”
Venezuela has had significant political unrest since the December 2015 election. In October the National Assembly voted to open criminal impeachment [JURIST report] proceedings against Maduro, alleging that he manipulated the constitution to remain in power. That same month the Assembly also declared [JURIST report] that there was a breakdown of constitutional order and that the government had staged a coup by blocking an attempt to remove Maduro from power. Instability peaked on March 30 when the Supreme Court of Venezuela dissolved [JURIST report] the opposition-controlled National Assembly and assumed all legislative powers.