Venezuela inaugurates Constituent Assembly amid street unrest

Venezuela’s newly-elected Constituent Assembly has been inaugurated amid mass public demonstrations. President Maduro, however, says that the assembly is aimed at restoring peace and order in the country.

The 545-strong Constituent Assembly has been inaugurated in the capital, Caracas, with former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez elected as the legislative body’s president, and former Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz elected as first vice president.

“This national constituent assembly, convened by President Nicolas Maduro, is hereby formally inaugurated,” Rodriguez said at the inauguration, also praising the late President Hugo Chavez, who she referred to as “our eternal commander,” as cited by RTE News.

Rodriguez also denounced what she called “foreign interference,” and described the inauguration day as “magnificent,” AFP reports.

“I want to thank Maduro for having stirred the wise powers of the Venezuelan people,” Rodriguez said.

The new assembly is seated in an ornate oval chamber under a golden dome in the 145-year-old Legislative Palace, the same building where the opposition-dominated National Assembly is located, though in a different room.

The Constituent Assembly will meet again on Saturday, and Rodriguez promised to take action against those she blamed for the unrest in the country, branding them “the violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war.”

“Justice is coming for you,” she said, as quoted by AP.

Meanwhile, police in the capital have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes with opposition supporters. The demonstrations, often violent, have been going on for months.

The opposition boycotted the Constituent Assembly election, holding instead a symbolic vote in mid-July, in which over 7 million people rejected the move. The government did not recognize the vote.

The Constituent Assembly will have the power to change the country’s 1999 constitution. Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader, said that “the government wants to sell the constituent assembly as a solution to the problems. But it’s only aggravating them.”

A stringer on the ground, Carlos Camacho, described to RT the state of things in Venezuela. He thinks that the protests will take a long time to die down, because the stand-off is too strong at the moment.

“Well, the situation here is that now we have two parliaments: one is dominated by the opposition, and another by Nicolas Maduro. The opposition hasn’t renounced the demonstration, but maintains that what they are doing are people’s demonstrations. However, as you can see, it’s usually violent. 153 people have been killed since demonstrations started in late March. I see that the situation is continuing, or maybe even getting worse. I don’t see it die down anytime soon. Both sides are entrenched.”

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro slammed the US for its attempt to disrupt the Venezuelan economy with sanctions, which the president described as an “indirect blockade” in an interview with RT.

“As a president, I appeal to him, to President Donald Trump: Stop aggression towards Venezuela. Venezuela is a fundamental basis of stability in the whole Caribbean Basin,” Maduro said.