Pro–Maduro institutions encroach on Venezuela’s opposition
Institutions loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro encroached further on his opponent’s dwindling power base in the nation’s government on Tuesday, taking over the halls of the endangered, opposition-controlled congress and sentencing a mayor at the centre of recent protests to prison.
Delegates to the new, allpowerful constitutional assembly convened in the stately, gold-domed chamber where congress normally meets in another sign that it intends to muscle aside any authority still held by the opposition.
Opposition lawmakers said they were barred from entering the legislative palace after security forces led by constitutional assembly president Delcy Rodriguez broke into congress late Monday to set up seats for the 545 pro-government delegates.
“This government invades the spaces that it is not capable of legitimately winning,’’ Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition
lawmaker, wrote on Twitter of the assembly’s takeover of the congressional chamber the opposition has controlled since winning 2015 elections.
Photos of late President Hugo Chavez, who first installed Venezuela’s socialist government, were prominently displayed at the front of the hall.
In her opening address at Tuesday’s session, Rodriguez described the takeover of the congressional chamber as an act “complying with norms and laws of the republic, which for the majority of Venezuelans should be something normal.’’ The constitutional assembly later passed decrees pledging “support and solidarity’’ to the president and the nation’s armed forces after a weekend attack at a large military base.
Meanwhile, only a few dozen demonstrators heeded the opposition’s call to set up trafficsnarling roadblocks in Caracas to show their opposition to the new assembly.
Protests that drew hundreds of thousands at their peak are drawing fewer and fewer as fear and resignation creep in. At least 124 people have been killed and hundreds more injured or detained during the protests.
A United Nations report released Tuesday found that Venezuela’s armed forces were responsible for 46 of the deaths since April. Another 27 people were killed by groups of armed, pro-government civilians, the report said. Earlier Tuesday, Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court sentenced a Caracas-area mayor at the centre of recent protests to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up during anti-government demonstrations in the leafy suburb of Chacao.
Pedestrians walk past a barricade set up by anti-government demonstrators, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday.