Venezuela's controversial constitutional assembly meets for 1st time since election

Aug 06, 2017, 00:41
Venezuela's controversial constitutional assembly meets for 1st time since election

The election of the legislative super-body has been decried by critics as illegitimate and created to give the unpopular government of President Nicolas Maduro powers to rewrite the constitution and sideline the opposition-led congress.

President Nicolas Maduro's wife and son are among the members of the 545-member assembly that unanimously selected former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez as its president.

With unlimited powers to dissolve the National Assembly or amend laws, the new body is tasked with rewriting the 1999 constitution brought in under Maduro's late mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Maduro has said the assembly will strip opposition lawmakers of their constitutional immunity from prosecution, while members of congress say they will only be removed by force.

"Do not think we're going to wait weeks, months or years", Rodriguez said during her first speech Friday. "The violent fascists. justice is coming for you".

Venezuela was suspended from the trade bloc Mercosur for the second time in the past year after foreign ministers from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay held an emergency meeting in Sao Paulo.

Venezuela's contested new assembly fired the country's dissident attorney general, Luisa Ortega, on Saturday and ordered her to go on trial in a move sure to further inflame global criticism of the leftist government.

The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is facing a hard and complex work, starting today, to defend, deepen, renew and reinforce the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

There has been speculation it's possible that Fitzpatrick's comments were a veiled message for opposition spokespeople such as Freddy Guevara, a legislator for Lopez's Popular Will party in the National Assembly.

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He also said that Venezuela's decisions affect Colombia and Colombians, and that democracy is now destroyed in that country.

Tillerson's comments follow controversial elections held in Venezuela last Sunday, when millions of voters turned out to choose delegates for a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution - in spite of hostility from the U.S. and a boycott from the national opposition.

It called in a statement on "all political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the existing constitution".

Rodriguez also denied that there is "hunger or humanitarian crisis" in Venezuela, because "what there is, is a determination to defend the country's sovereignty".

Smartmatic said the official turnout figure had been "tampered with" and exaggerated by at least one million voters.

Two days after the vote, security forces raided the homes of opposition members Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.

"We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners", the statement added.

H.R. McMaster, the USA national security adviser, said in a television interview Saturday that "democracy is over right now in Venezuela", but dismissed the threat of military intervention there from an outside source. Its election on Sunday prompted US President Donald Trump to label Maduro as a dictator.

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