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Venezuela tells Germany 'don't interfere'

Venezuela has told Germany not to meddle in its affairs after Berlin called for a return to democracy in the crisis-stricken South American country. Maduro's new all-powerful assembly has drawn international criticism.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said he had voiced the objections in a letter of "severe protest" to Germany's ambassador in Caracas.

"Neither Germany nor any other country in the world has the right to interfere in Venezuela's domestic affairs," Arreaza wrote.

The rebuke came in response to comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert in a press conference Monday. Seibert told reporters the German government wanted to see "a peaceful return to democratic order" in Venezuela, as well as an end to "arbitrary arrests and excessive violence against the opposition."

Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?

Watch video 01:45

Venezuela spirals toward dictatorship

Seibert also referred to the de facto disempowerment of the country's parliament following the installation of an all-powerful constituent assembly early this month. The body - made up of 545 members, most of them allies of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro - has been condemned by a number of leaders around the world.

Foreign Minister Arreaza said he had made it "clear" to German envoy Stefan Andreas Herzberg that the assembly had helped to calm the violent anti-government protests that have claimed more than 120 lives since April. He also accused Germany of violating "all principles of international law, such as noninterference in the internal affairs of states."

"Venezuela is in a different situation and if there is something the international community, the European Union or Germany can do, it is to respect Venezuelan sovereignty and recognize that things have returned to constitutional rule. 

"We hope that we can resume relations with Germany and with all the countries of the world," he concluded.

Nicolas Maduro waves to a crowd in Caracas

President Nicolas Maduro greets his supporters in Caracas

Fears of crackdown

The new pro-government assembly on Wednesday installed a truth commission tasked with prosecuting those involved in violent acts during the recent wave of anti-government unrest.

"We have seen tweets, messages on social networks and photographs of opposition leaders responsible for convening and organizing violent events in Venezuela," said Delcy Rodriguez, who heads the assembly as well as the new commission.

"As a consequence, we have decided to open an investigation into those who are responsible," she said, adding that it would have a "cleansing effect" on the country.

The constituent assembly is currently mulling a bill that would jail Venezuelans found guilty of expressing "hate or intolerance" for up to 25 years. Opposition officials fear the measure will be used to crack down further on dissent in the country.

"The proposal includes incredibly vague language that would allow them to jail anyone for almost anything," Tamara Taraciuk, head Venezuela researcher for Human Rights Watch, told news agency Reuters.

Watch video 02:13

New pro-Maduro assembly convenes in Caracas

The truth commission is also investigating whether any opposition candidates running in regional elections in October were involved in the violent protests.

Ex-chief prosecutor targeted

Concerns about a crackdown on opponents came as authorities announced plans to target former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, one of Maduro's most vocal critics. The pro-government assemblyfired her in its first working session earlier this month.

Her replacement, staunch Socialist loyalist Tarek Saab, on Wednesday said he would seek the arrest of Ortega's lawmaker husband, German Ferrer, for allegedly running a $6 million (5.1 million-euro) extortion ring with corrupt prosecutors under her supervision.

The charges have "nothing to do with" the political leanings of Ferrer or Ortega, Saab said.

Venezuelan intelligence officers raided the couple's home on Wednesday and there were unconfirmed reports they had fled the country.

nm/sms (Reuters, AP, EFE, dpa)

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