New assembly sworn in, vows to crush its foes
Defying criticism from Washington to the Vatican, Venezuela’s ruling party Friday installed a new super-assembly that supporters promise will pacify the country and critics fear will be a tool for imposing dictatorship.
The constitutional assembly’s first order of business was selecting its head — former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, a loyal follower of President Nicolas Maduro.
The nomination was approved unanimously by the 545 delegates, who marched to the neo-classical legislative palace led by socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello and first lady Cilia Flores and accompanied by hundreds of red-shirted government supporters carrying roses and portraits of the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor and mentor.
Some shouted, “He’s returned!” as a jab at the opposition, which had ordered images of Chavez removed from an adjacent building when it won control of Congress in 2015.
The assembly was scheduled to meet again Saturday, and Rodriguez pledged it would be taking action against Maduro’s political opponents.
“Don’t think we’re going to wait weeks, months or years,” she said. “Tomorrow we start to act. The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming for you.”
The installation of the all-powerful constitutional assembly is virtually certain to intensify a political crisis that has brought four months of protests that left at least 120 people dead and hundreds jailed. Maduro vows the assembly will strip opposition lawmakers of their constitutional immunity from prosecution. Members of Congress say they will only be removed by force.
“It doesn’t matter where they meet, they’re installing a fraudulent institution,” declared Freddy Guevara, the National Assembly’s first vice president, at an opposition demonstration in eastern Caracas that drew only a few hundred protesters.
Delcy Rodriguez (center), president of Venezuela’s new Constituent Assembly, leads the group in an official photo Friday outside the National Assembly building in Caracas.