Venezuelans are set to enter an even more volatile period now that the vote to elect a controversial National Constituent Assembly has been held, a former mediator with the Carter Center said. 

Jennifer McCoy, Ph.D., was a mediator in Venezuela in 2002 after a failed coup against then-president Hugo Chávez. 

The government reported a record 8.1 million people voting, while the opposition boycotted and independent estimates ranged from 2.5-3.6 million votes. The president’s fiery speech after midnight indicated a radicalization rather than reconciliation, she said.

“The President called on the newly-elected National Constituent Assembly lift the immunity of current parliamentarians and institute a Truth and Reparations Commission to address the deaths and damage from three months of protests," Dr. McCoy said. "The vote was widely seen as an attempt by the government to avoid regularly scheduled elections that it fears it will lose, and instead create a new body that will have supreme 'original' authority to rewrite the constitution and dissolve other branches of government.

"It could backfire against the government, though, as its members will have power even over the president, and the governing faction could thus divide," she continued. "It will unleash an even more severe constitutional crisis and is likely to escalate violence."

In a July 16 unofficial vote organized by the opposition, more than 7 million turned out to reject the government’s call to rewrite the constitution. The election comes after more than three months of daily protests against the government, and severe conflict between branches of government where the president, supreme court, and electoral council refuse to recognize the authority of the legislature and the break-away Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

Dr. McCoy, an expert on Venezuelan politics, has published four books on the subject, the latest of which is International Mediation in Venezuela (with Francisco Diez, USIP press, 2011).  She is currently a Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University, and former director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program where she monitored Venezuelan elections and mediated conflicts in that country since 1998.

Dr. McCoy’s biography is available at

To contact Dr. McCoy, email her directly at [email protected] or Tweet at @jlynnmccoy. Her mobile/cell contact number is located in the contact box on this page, visible to logged-in registrants of the Newswise system.

For further assistance in reaching the professor, contact Jeremy Craig at Georgia State University’s central public relations office at [email protected] or (+1) 404-413-1374.