Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro announced on Monday the creation of a new popular assembly with the power to rewrite the constitution. In doing so, Venezuela’s socialist government will have the ability to overrule other government powers, including the opposition-ruled National Assembly.
Maduro made the announcement on a government rally in downtown Caracas, while in other places around the country opposition supporters were being repressed by security forces who threw tear gas and rubber bullets at them.
Maduro triggered an article of the constitution that creates a body known as a “constituent assembly,” which can dissolve public powers and call general elections. Hugo Chávez, former Venezuela President who established socialism throughout the country, triggered the same article in 1999 soon after he won the presidency.
Maduro’s decision will allow him to dissolve every power in Venezuela
The President said at the rally that the constituent assembly is needed to achieve peace in the nation. Venezuela’s opposition has over a month protesting throughout the country, following a government attempt to dissolve the National Assembly.
“I convoke the original constituent power to achieve the peace needed by the Republic, defeat the fascist coup, and let the sovereign people impose peace, harmony and true national dialogue,” said Maduro.
Maduro said that only half of the 500-member assembly, or maybe less, would be elected to form the constituent assembly and that political parties would not participate. Opposition leaders believe Maduro would name his supporters to the new assembly to manipulate the elected seats by giving more power to pro-government workers’ groups.
The opposition said the action is another attempt of the government to dissolve the opposition-led Congress and to keep Maduro in office despite the majority of the country requesting general elections to get rid of socialism. National Assembly President Julio Borges called on Venezuelans to rebel against the mandate and not to accept Maduro’s coup.
“This is a scam to deceive the Venezuelan people with a mechanism that is nothing more than a coup,” said Borges to reporters, according to Reuters.
Venezuela’s protests over the last month have left more than 30 deaths, 400 injured and over 1,000 arrested. Maduro claims that the opposition is staging a U.S.-backed coup, while in reality, the socialist government’s decisions have left Venezuela in its worst economic crisis ever.
Opposition calls Venezuelans to the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday
Earlier on Monday, opposition members spread across Caracas to march to the Supreme Court, the entity that attempted to dissolve the National Assembly, and were met by security forces throughout the city. The National Guard, a military government entity, threw tear gas and rubber bullets to peaceful demonstrators, injuring dozens of people.
Lawmaker Jose Olivares was hit in the head by a tear gas canister, and later tweeted that the wound required a dozen stitches. Security forces clashed with opposition youths, who threw the canisters back at them, as well as stones and Molotov cocktails.
The opposition is demanding elections, as well as autonomy for the National Assembly, freedom for more than 100 political prisoners and a humanitarian aid channel from abroad to help with Venezuela’s economic crisis, as Venezuelans are struggling with food and medicine shortages across the nation. Opposition leaders called for continued street action on Tuesday and Wednesday.