The Latest: Regional diplomats reject Venezuela’s assembly
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on Venezuela’s political crisis (all times local):
Foreign ministers from 17 Western Hemisphere nations are condemning Venezuela’s new constitutional assembly, saying their governments will refuse to recognize the all-powerful body.
The statement came Tuesday evening after the Venezuelan assembly declared itself superior to all other branches of government.
The top diplomats met in Peru’s capital to discuss Venezuela’s political upheaval. They expressed support for renewed negotiations between the government and opposition, though previous talks have failed.
The ministers represented Mexico, Canada, Argentina and other regional nations. But while many Latin American nations have denouncing embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent moves to consolidate power, the region has found it tricky to formulate a collective response.
Venezuela’s new constitutional assembly has passed a decree declaring itself superior to all other branches of government.
The order passed Tuesday bars the opposition-controlled National Assembly and other agencies from taking any action that would interfere with the laws passed by the pro-government super-body.
Embattled President Nicolas Maduro convoked the constitutional assembly in what he says is an attempt to resolve the nation’s political standoff but opposition leaders contend it is a power grab.
Opposition leaders and a growing list of foreign government have refused to recognize the new assembly.
As Venezuela descends into political chaos, a prominent opposition leader is taking umbrage over soccer great Diego Maradona’s defense of President Nicolas Maduro’s embattled government.
Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles offers in an interview with Argentina’s Radio Mitre to “personally” pick Maradona up at the airport and take him to meet “the common man” in Venezuela, which is suffering from shortages, spiraling inflation and sky-high homicide rates.
But in a dig at the retired Argentine star’s lavish lifestyle, Capriles said he would surely prefer the comforts of a five-star hotel and the presidential palace.
Maradona is currently coach of the United Arab Emirates soccer club Al-Fujairah. He was a staunch backer and friend of now-deceased presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba.
On Monday, Maradona made a post on Facebook saying “We are Chavistas to the death.”
He wrote in Spanish that if Maduro were to order it, he would “dress as a soldier for a free Venezuela, to fight imperialism.”
The government-backed assembly that is recasting Venezuela’s political system appears to be literally taking the place of the opposition-controlled congress.
Delegates to the constitutional assembly on Tuesday were filing into the stately domed chamber where congress normally meets — and did as recently as Monday.
In two previous sessions, the 545-member assembly met in an adjacent, smaller building.
The change appears to foreshadow that congress itself could be the next target of the assembly, which has been given powers over all other branches of government.
Government officials have said the assembly should strip lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution — a move intended to hold them accountable for allegedly stirring violence in four months of anti-government protests that have left more than 120 people dead and hundreds more injured or detained.
The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is convinced the crisis in Venezuela can’t be solved “through the imposition of unilateral measures” and is again urging the government and opposition to relaunch negotiations.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday that Guterres “is concerned that recent developments could lead to further escalation of tensions and distance the country from a path conducive to a peaceful solution to its challenges.”
Dujarric said “at this critical time” the secretary-general is urging negotiations “for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.”
He said Guterres is also supporting international and regional efforts seeking to revive talks.
The U.S. State Department is repeating its rejection of the new government-loaded assembly rewriting Venezuela’s constitution, saying it’s “an illegitimate product of a flawed process designed by a dictator.”
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauer issued a series of tweets on Venezuela Tuesday. She says the U.S. “will continue to use appropriate econ/diplomatic tools” to address the threat to democratic institutions in Venezuela and says the U.S. stands by the country’s citizens.
Venezuela’s pro-government supreme court has ordered the removal and imprisonment of a Caracas area mayor at the center of protests against President Nicolas Maduro.
The court has sentenced Ramon Muchacho to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up by anti-government protesters in the Chacao district of eastern Caracas.
Muchacho’s whereabouts were not immediately known, but he denounced the ruling on Twitter, saying that “all of the weight of the revolutionary injustice has fallen on my shoulders” for doing his job to guarantee the constitutional right to protest.
Relatively wealthy Chacao was the center of the most intense clashes between protesters and national security forces that have left at least 120 dead and hundreds injured over the past four months.
The U.N. human rights office says it has unearthed “widespread and systematic use” of excessive force, arbitrary detention and other rights violations against demonstrators and detainees in Venezuela.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says preliminary findings suggest there are “no signs” that the situation was improving.
The team’s analysis found security forces were allegedly responsible for at least 46 deaths, and pro-government armed groups were allegedly responsible for 27 among 124 deaths being investigated in connection with demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s government. It said it was unclear who the perpetrators of the other deaths were.
The rights office team said Tuesday that violations included “house raids, torture and ill-treatment of those detained in connection with the protests.”
A full report on the team’s findings is expected later this month.
Foreign ministers from 14 nations are meeting in Peru on Tuesday in hopes of finding consensus on a regional response to Venezuela’s growing political crisis.
President Nicolas Maduro’s all-powerful constitutional assembly is forging ahead on promises to punish the embattled leader’s foes.
The assembly was expected to gather at the legislative palace in Caracas for the first time since voting Saturday to remove the nation’s outspoken chief prosecutor, a move that drew condemnation from many of the same regional government that are sending representatives to the meeting in Peru’s capital.
Peru’s president has been vocal in rejecting the new assembly, but the region has found that agreeing on any collective actions has proved tricky. Still, Venezuela is facing mounting pressure and threats of deepening sanctions from trade partners.