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Maduro green lights consituent assembly referendum

June 2, 2017

Venezuela's President Nicholas Maduro has said a referendum will be held on his controversial plan to create a constituent assembly. Meanwhile, ongoing protests over what the opposition claim is a power grab intensified.

Venezuela Protest und Ausschreitungen in Caracas
Image: Reuters/C. Barria

Maduro's comments on Friday came in response to criticism that his plan to create a new super-body - the constituent assembly - is an attempt to rewrite the national charter, the constitution.

"I shall propose it explicitly: the new constitution will go to a consultative referendum so it is the people who say whether they are in agreement or not with the new, strengthened constitution," Maduro said on state TV.

Opponents of the Socialist party president believe he aims to keep himself in power by packing the planned "constituent assembly" with his allies.

There was no word on when the plebiscite would be held.

The Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) will hold elections to the National Constituent Assembly in late July, with regional elections scheduled for December.

Maduro loses key ally 

The attorney general, Luisa Ortega, took a stand against Maduro on Thursday, launching a legal challenge against his bid to rewrite the constitution.

Ortega told reporters she had filed a case with the constitutional court on human rights grounds.

Elected in 2013, Maduro is resisting opposition calls for early elections to remove him.

Protests have left 60 people dead since April 1, when Maduro's opponents intensified their efforts to oust him after a Supreme Court ruling seizing power from the opposition-majority legislature.

Opposition leader threatened

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court threatened on Thursday to jail opposition leader Henrique Capriles if he allows anti-government protesters to block roads in the state he governs.

Capriles - who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election to Maduro - would face six to 15 months in prison if he fails to comply.
jbh/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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