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Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly assumes new powers

IANS | Caracas |

Venezuela’s newly-appointed National Constituent Assembly (ANC) voted unanimously to take over the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.

Friday’s vote came after the leaders of the National Assembly, the unicameral legislature, refused an invitation to attend the ANC session at the legislative palace, reports Efe news.

Venezuela’s opposition does not recognize the ANC, calling it an illegitimate tool President Nicolas Maduro’s government is using to consolidate a dictatorship.

By decree, the constituent assembly voted to “assume the power to legislate on matters that directly pertain to guaranteeing the preservation of peace, public safety, sovereignty, the socio-economic and financial system, the objectives of the state and the pre-eminence of Venezuelans’ rights”.

It said the decree had its basis in Article 349 of Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, which states that the existing constituted authorities shall in no way be permitted to obstruct the decisions of a duly-formed Constituent Assembly.

But National Assembly President Julio Borges said in an open letter later on Friday that the ANC was not an authentic constituent assembly but rather a “de facto power” set up to keep Maduro in power.

The National Assembly, which has continued to meet at a separate chamber of the legislative palace, called on its members and ordinary Venezuelans to attend a session on Saturday.

Maduro says that ANC is needed to bring peace to oil-rich Venezuela and resolve its severe economic woes, but the opposition and much of the international community say it will be used to strip away all vestiges of democracy in the country.

Since its inauguration earlier this month, the ANC has sacked a key government critic, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, issued a ruling stating that its decisions override those of any other constitutional bodies in Venezuela and threatened to jail opposition leaders.