Defence Minister and head of the Venezuelan armed forces, General Vladimir Padrino López, was considerably more trenchant than President Nicolás Maduro in denouncing the eight-hour siege of the national assembly by violent pro-government militants on Independence Day (5 July). It was, he said, “unacceptable”. “We condemn violence in all its forms, no matter where it comes from,” he tweeted. “Today, day of the fatherland, we call for peace, elections, and a national accord by way of the national constituent assembly”. Therein lies the rub. There is a very strong risk of a rapid escalation in violence in the next three weeks, which will see an informal opposition plebiscite on the Maduro government, followed thereafter by the official elections on 30 July for the constituent assembly.

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