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Critics reject Maduro's call for new constitution

May 2, 2017

The embattled president has announced plans for a new assembly tasked with rewriting Venezuela's constitution. Critics have called on citizens to "disobey such craziness," describing the move as "constitutional fraud."

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro standing in front of a crowd of supporters Marcelo Garcia/Prensa Miraflores/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Prensa Miraflores/M. Garcia

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday announced plans for a new popular assembly as thousands gathered in the streets of the capital, Caracas, to oppose his regime.

Maduro triggered an article of the constitution that effectively allows for the reformation of public offices in a move reminiscent of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and his constitutional reforms in 1999.

"I convoke the original constituent power to achieve the peace needed by the republic, defeat the fascist coup and let the sovereign people impose peace, harmony and true national dialogue," Maduro told supporters at a May Day gathering.

A protester scuffles with police during a May Day opposition march in eastern Caracas (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Protesters have urged authorities to disobey the government, chanting: 'Police don't support dictatorship'Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Llano

The embattled president said the decree was necessary to disrupt a "fascist coup" he accuses Washington of orchestrating.

The new entity - to be tasked with writing a new constitution - will be a "citizen's constituent body, not from political parties - a people's constituent body," Maduro said.

Venezuela has been hit with near-daily protests after the Supreme Court earlier this year attempted to strip the opposition-held Congress of legislative authority.

'Constitutional fraud'

Critics lashed out at the president's latest move, calling it part of a plan to retain power amid mass protests calling for the increasingly dictatorial leader to step down from office and make way for fresh elections.

"Faced with the dictator's announcement of the constitutional fraud of the constituent assembly, people should go to the street and disobey such craziness," said opposition leader Henrique Capriles in a tweet.

The protests have brought together thousands of Venezuelans from all parts of society, some of them angered by the president's actions and others frustrated by crippling shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.

Nearly 30 people have been killed and more than 400 others injured during the violent protests.

Since assuming the presidency in 2013, Maduro has struggled to lift the OPEC nation out of an acute financial crisis, in part caused by the collapse of oil prices.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)