Vatican urges Venezuela's Maduro to suspend new legislative superbody

Casey Dawson
August 5, 2017

Some were carrying roses and large portraits of the late Hugo Chavez, predecessor and mentor to President Nicolas Maduro.

Just hours ahead of the assembly's inaugural session, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail back to house arrest, his family said.

Over the last four months, Caracas has been rocked by violent protests which have resulted in the deaths of 125 people, and more than 5,000 people have been detained by security forces.

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

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.

The opposition boycotted Sunday's election of the constituent assembly, arguing that the rules were rigged to benefit the government, and almost all the candidates were supporters of Maduro's administration.

Earlier, the Vatican urged the Venezuelan government to "avoid or suspend" its new legislative superbody. 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. Spain's ambassador to Venezuela was among a group of legislators who visited the National Assembly on Tuesday in a show of support after the constituent assembly election.

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The Constituent Assembly marks a new stage in Venezuela's rule.

The members of the national assembly were selected in voting on July 30, but the opposition boycotted the vote and worldwide observers viewed the ballot as illegitimate.

Maduro for seeing through the creation of the new Assembly, with the U.S. hitting him with sanctions this week and U.S. President Donald Trump branding him a dictator.

Cabello said that in one of its first tasks, the assembly plans to target the opposition-controlled congress, known as the National Assembly, and the chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz, a longtime supporter of Chavez who recently broke with Maduro.

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

A new legislative body that is expected to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and give new powers to the ruling Socialist Party has been inaugurated in Caracas.

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