New Constituent Assembly Installed in Venezuela

Saul Bowman
August 5, 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela-President Nicolás Maduro brushed aside worldwide condemnation and installed a powerful new assembly on Friday that critics say will crush the last traces of Venezuelan democracy.

Socialist Party officials converged on congress in a festive march in which they carried portraits of independence hero Simon Bolivar and Chavez, whose image was removed by the opposition legislators when they took over in January 2016.

A poster that shows some of Venezuela's opposition leaders holding a sign with a message that reads in Spanish: "That constituent assembly will not pass" is displayed on a wall near Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. More than 120 people have meanwhile died in anti-Maduro protests over the last four months.

Governments from Spain to Canada to Argentina have spoken out against the assembly.

On Friday, the Vatican urged Maduro to suspend the new body, expressing "deep worry for the radicalization and worsening" of the turmoil in Venezuela.

The 545-member assembly, which will operate in the same building as the existing opposition-run congress, has been condemned around the world over concerns that it will undermine democratic freedoms.

Constituent Assembly elected to rewrite constitution holds first session in Caracas as opposition plans more protests. The National assembly's claim of a fraudulent election was bolstered when the CEO of the voting technology company Smartmatic said Wednesday that results of Venezuela's election for the all-powerful constituent assembly were off by at least 1 million votes. "To attach the term democracy to Venezuela with this new constituent assembly is on very weak ground".

The Constituent Assembly has powers to dissolve the National Assembly, if it wishes.

The US has imposed direct sanctions on Maduro, calling him a "dictator", while the European Union has joined the US, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina in saying it would not recognise the new assembly.

She told the media that the tampering allegations were part of an "aggression" against Venezuela.

The assembly is charged with rewriting Chavez's 1999 constitution and has been given sweeping powers over other branches of government.

One opposition lawmaker, Henry Ramos Allup, said this week that if forcibly expelled from the legislative palace, the National Assembly could potentially hold its sessions at another site.

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