Venezuela swears in fraudulent constituent assembly, illegally removes chief prosecutor

Venezuela on Friday swore in 545 delegates to its new constituent assembly, a body of lawmakers that has the power to rewrite the Constitution and effectively replaces the country's parliament.

The legislative body was elected in a referendum Sunday that is under investigation for fraud. Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say it gives him sweeping new powers inching him closer to dictator status. 

Demonstrators took the streets again Friday as the new body was sworn in. Police in the capital of Caracas used tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to reach the parliament building. Multiple people were injured. 

Among the members of the new constituent assembly are Maduro's wife and son, and an ally of his, Delcy Rodriguez, was elected president of the body. 

The new assembly will have the power to override or dissolve the previously elected parliament, the National Assembly, which is led by a coalition of opposition parties. 

The new delegates voted Saturday unanimously to remove Luisa Ortega from her post as the nation's top law enforcement official and replace her with a staunch government supporter. 

Ortega, a longtime loyalist who broke with the socialist government in April, 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." 

"This is just a tiny example of what's coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of government," Ortega said in the statement she signed as chief prosecutor. "If they're doing this to the chief prosecutor, imagine the helpless state all Venezuelans live in." 

Earlier Saturday, Ortega was pushed and barred from entering her office by dozens of national guardsmen in riot gear who took control of the entrance to the building. She alleged that authorities were desperate to get their hands on dossiers containing information on dirty dealings by high-level officials, including sensitive details about millions of dollars in bribes paid by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. 

Assembly delegates later swore in as her replacement Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration for failing to protect protesters from abuses in his role as the nation's top human rights official. 

In other news, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez were returned home to serve their sentences under house arrest, days after being hauled back to prison in the middle of the night in a move that drew international condemnation.

 

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