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Venezuelan opposition condemns Maduro's call for new constitution

By
Andrew V. Pestano
A protester tries to protect himself from tear gas during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 19. Photo by Cristian Hernandez/UPI
A protester tries to protect himself from tear gas during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 19. Photo by Cristian Hernandez/UPI

May 3 (UPI) -- The Venezuelan opposition and several countries, including Brazil, Canada and the United States, have criticized President Nicolas Maduro's call to rewrite the Constitution.

Maduro on Monday called for a National Constituent Assembly under Article 347 "for the purpose of transforming the state, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new constitution."

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On Tuesday, the opposition-controlled National Assembly unanimously approved a resolution rejecting the "fraudulent convocation of a supposed constituent assembly not democratically elected." The opposition has likened Maduro's call to a coup d'etat.

"This new attack by Nicolas Maduro is the ultimate expression of the continuing coup and a deplorable intention to dissolve the republic," the National Assembly said.

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Venezuela is facing a political, security and economic crisis in which basic goods such as food and medicine are in short supply, unavailable or unaffordable. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

The most recent protests in Venezuela began on March 30 after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, said it would assume the National Assembly's duties -- a ruling it later reversed.

The opposition said Maduro's call for a new constitution is also an attempt to sidestep elections supposed to be scheduled for 2018. Members of the international community have also shared concerns about Maduro's move.

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"We have deep concerns about the motivation for this constituent assembly, which overrides the will of the Venezuelan people and further erodes Venezuelan democracy," U.S. State Department spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick told reporters. "What President Maduro is trying to do yet again is change the rules of the game."

Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes also likened the call for a National Constituent Assembly to a coup d'etat.

"It's one more moment of rupture of the democratic order, contrary to the Constitution of the country," Nunes said in a statement. "In Venezuela, those who will elect [in the Constituent Assembly] are social organizations controlled by President Maduro to make a constitution in accordance with what he wants."

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Canada's embassy in Venezuela said it was offering emergency consular services for citizens who are in the South American country.

"Canada is worried about the decision by President Maduro to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution. We ask the government to respect the opposition," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

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