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.