Maduro’s as­sem­bly squeezes op­po­si­tion


CARA­CAS, VENEZUELA | In­sti­tu­tions loyal to Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro en­croached fur­ther on the op­po­si­tion’s dwin­dling power base in the na­tion’s gov­ern­ment on Tues­day, tak­ing over the halls of the en­dan­gered, op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional As­sem­bly and sen­tenc­ing a mayor at the cen­ter of re­cent protests to prison.

Del­e­gates to the new, all-pow­er­ful con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly con­vened in the stately, gold-domed cham­ber where law­mak­ers nor­mally meet in an­other sign that it in­tends to mus­cle aside any au­thor­ity still held by Mr. Maduro’s op­po­nents. In its most far-reach­ing act to date, the as­sem­bly on Tues­day passed a de­cree declar­ing it­self su­pe­rior to all other branches of gov­ern­ment, bar­ring the Na­tional As­sem­bly and other agen­cies from tak­ing any ac­tion that would in­ter­fere with the laws passed by the pro-gov­ern­ment su­per-body.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers said they were barred from en­ter­ing the leg­isla­tive palace af­ter se­cu­rity forces led by con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly pres­i­dent Delcy Ro­driguez broke into the par­lia­ment 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, tweeted of the as­sem­bly’s takeover of the con­gres­sional cham­ber the op­po­si­tion has con­trolled since win­ning 2015 elec­tions.

Pho­tos of late pop­ulist Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez, a men­tor to Mr. Maduro who first in­stalled Venezuela’s so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment, were promi­nently dis­played at the front of the hall.

In her open­ing ad­dress at Tues­day’s ses­sion, Ms. 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 traf­fic-snarling 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, pro­gov­ern­ment civil­ians, the re­port said.

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