Venezuelan chief prosecutor’s office blocked by security forces

Venezuelan security forces have blocked off the offices of the chief prosecutor, one of President Nicolas Maduro’s most vocal critics. She is expected to be removed by a newly installed all-powerful assembly.

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Venezuela opens disputed constituent assembly

Chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz on Saturday condemned what she called a military “siege,” as she posted photos to Twitter showing dozens of troops from the Venezuelan military outside her Caracas headquarters.

“I denounce this arbitrary act before the national and international community,” she wrote.

The move comes as newly elected members of the all-powerful constituent assembly pledged to move swiftly against President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents.

“Don’t think we’re going to wait weeks, months or years,” former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on Friday after she was voted unanimously by all 545 delegates to lead the assembly. “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.”

Read more: What is Venezuela’s constituent assembly?

Some of the assembly’s delegates have already called directly for Ortega’s removal.

Protesters make petrol bombs as the first sitting of the constituent assembly gets underwayAnti-Maduro protesters make petrol bombs as the first sitting of the constituent assembly gets underway in Caracas

Assembly gets to work

The body, which was meeting for the second time on Saturday, is tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution. President Maduro has said the assembly will also strip opposition lawmakers of their constitutional immunity from prosecution.

The opposition has refused to recognize the new body, which includes Maduro’s wife and son among its more than 500 members and is composed largely of presidential loyalists. Government opponents see the asembly as a move by Maduro to destroy democracy.

Delegates of the national constituent assmebly meet in CaracasNational constituent assembly members, including the body’s President Delcy Rodriguez (in red), meet in Caracas

Prosecutor Ortega had announced earlier in the week that she would open an investigation into alleged irregularities into Sunday’s controversial election to form the assembly. She also submitted a court claim seeking to suspend the body.

Despite opposition protests, the assembly’s first session went ahead on Friday.

Demonstrations have continued for more than four months, and the opposition’s call to renew street protests raised fears that the death toll could risebeyond the 125 individuals who have already died.

Maduro supporters with hands raised outside the legislative palace (Reuters/U. Marcelino)Maduro supporters were also present outside the legislative palace as the meeting began on Friday

International rejection

Plans to install the new assembly provoked an international outcry, with the United States, the European Union and major Latin American countries all saying they would not recognize it. The Vatican has also urged Maduro not to go ahead with the assembly, calling on the government “to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the existing constitution.”

The constituent assembly has unlimited powers to dissolve the country’s legislature, the National Assembly, and amend laws, in addition to its task of rewriting the 1999 constitution brought in under late President Hugo Chavez. Maduro says the new constitution will end Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, though he gave no details on how these ends would be attained.

nm/tj (AP, AFP Reuters, dpa)

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