by Victoria Arguello
CARACAS, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela will see two votes this month, one to elect members of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which will rewrite the constitution, and an unofficial referendum held by the opposition to determine the level of public support for the ANC.
Over 19 million Venezuelans are invited to vote on July 30 to elect 545 members of the ANC.
Sunday will see the referendum held by the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), ostensibly to show President Nicolas Maduro that the Venezuelan population does not support the ANC.
Despite numerous government acts around the country to raise support for a new constitution, the MUD said that the ANC is undemocratic and merely an attempt by the government to consolidate its power.
Luis Quintana, a professor of geopolitics at the Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela, rejected this claim and said that the ANC is "inclusive."
In an interview with Xinhua, Quintana said this process will allow "workers, farmers and fishermen, students, disabled people, among others, to have an express and direct representation in the ANC."
Venezuela has been racked by political violence for over three months. Since April, the MUD has led protests against Maduro, demanding fresh presidential elections and freeing of political prisoners.
On May 1, Maduro called for the ANC to guarantee national peace. He invited the opposition to end the violence and resolve political differences within the ANC.
The MUD rejected this call and blamed the government and the army for the violence, which has left at least 94 people dead.
Instead of a new constitution, Quintana said the ANC is seeking to perfect the constitution of 1999.
"It is about expanding the people's social, economic, political and cultural rights and is seeking to deepen democracy," said Quintana.
"The ANC can exercise...the legislative authority to resolve the situation in this country," he added.
The MUD's referendum, set for Sunday, will see Venezuelans asked if they question the call for the ANC, if they demand that the army should defend the constitution of 1999, and if all those in public positions should be changed.
While the process has been rejected by the National Electoral Council, international observers will monitor the referendum.