Opposed by Vatican and others, Maduro's Constitution-writing body surges ahead
The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, did not give his countrymen a choice about whether to rewrite their constitution. He simply gave them a choice of what Venezuelans to vote for to be members of the “Constituent Assembly,” the body that will do the work of that rewriting.
Some say that even there the choices were limited to representatives who supported Maduro’s vision for Venezuela.
Now that the 545-member Constituent Assembly has been seated—against the protests of Pope Francis—it has decreed that it has the power to pass laws.
National Public Radio explained that while the move does not officially dissolve the Venezuelan legislature, it “effectively renders the body of lawmakers moot by appropriating its principle responsibility.”
The Venezuelan congress, which has been filled with opposition politicians since their big wins in 2015 elections, has long been a thorn in the side of a president who has been tightening his hold on power. As NPR’s Philip Reeves notes, the assembly’s maneuver Friday marks “another milestone in a rapid journey toward dictatorship.” As the pro-Maduro legislative superbody accumulates powers, the Venezuelan president and his Socialist Party now enjoy wide-ranging influence over every branch of government — including the Supreme Court, whose abortive attempt to nullify the country’s opposition-controlled congress at the end of March helped set off months of violent unrest.
In May, as the economic crisis in Venezuela continued to leave the masses with little to eat and dangerous shortages of medicine, and violent protests continued against the regime, Maduro called for the constituent assembly with the idea that it would bring peace to the country.
The U.S. State Department joined South American trade bloc Mercosur in condemning the new super-assembly, Reuters reported. Mercosur founding members Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay will not recognize any measures taken by the assembly, the group said in a statement.