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VENEZUELA: Maduro Establishes Constituent Assembly Amid Global Criticism

07 August 2017, 01:14 | Marta Robbins

Members of Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly

Members of Venezuela

A group of men wearing Venezuelan military uniforms announced the beginning of a "civil-military action" on Sunday as an ally of President Nicolas Maduro said that a military base was under attack from "terrorists".

Venezuelan intelligence agents have returned opposition leader Antonio Ledezma to his home, where he is serving house arrest, after taking him to prison early on Tuesday, Ledezma's family said on Friday.

Critics at home and overseas have condemned the so-called constituent assembly that formed on Friday and is meant to replace the popularly elected National Assembly, which opposes Maduro's increasingly authoritarian rule.

The opposition boycotted Sunday's election of the Constituent Assembly, arguing that the rules were rigged to benefit the government, and almost all the candidates were supporters of Maduro's administration.

Padrino is a sort of "superminister", to whom other cabinet members must report, Maduro said previous year.

Ortega refused to recognize the decision and vowed to continue defending the rights of Venezuelans from Maduro's "coup" against the constitution "with my last breath".

Since April more than 120 people have been killed in unrest as rock-throwing protesters were met by state security forces firing rubber bullets and water cannon.

"Each step by the Constituent Assembly is a step towards the precipice by this government", the leader of the opposition parliament, Julio Borges, told a news conference in Caracas on Sunday.

The constituent assembly quickly moved to dismiss the state prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, a former ally of Maduro's who has recently become his staunchest critic.

The president said troops battled with the intruders until about 8 a.m.

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"The United States condemn the illegal dismissals of public prosecutor of Venezuela @LOrtegaDiaz" (the identity of Ms. Ortega on the social network, ed), reacted on Twitter to the spokesman for the State department, Heather Nauert, denouncing "the dictatorship authoritarian rule of Maduro".

The countries indefinitely suspended Venezuela from the South American trading bloc Mercosur for its "rupture of the democratic order".

"The only thing it has left is brute force".

But Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, the head of the armed forces, has said the military's loyalty was unshakable.

Venezuela's electoral chief on Wednesday rejected allegations that Caracas had inflated the turnout figures for its Constituent Assembly election by at least one million votes, criticising the London firm's alleged evidence as "baseless".

After Sunday's attack in Valencia, Padrino tweeted that the assailants "couldn't do anything against" the army.

"Do you know what they are trying to do?"

In the video a man identifying himself as Capt. Juan Caguaripano said that any unit refusing to go along with its call for rebellion would be declared a military target.

It was not known if he was the lieutenant referred to in the military statement.



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