Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls for new consitution

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls for new consitution

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls for new consitution

In Venezuela, residents in Caracas have blocked the streets with rubbish and concrete to protest against President Nicolas Maduro's bid to rewrite the country's constitution.

Opposition leader María Corina Machado said pulling out of the OAS is Maduro's new strategy for gaining time and circumventing the pressures of the global community, which in the last month has demanded the restoration of democracy in Venezuela in addition to free, fair general elections.

But there is a key difference: while Chavez enjoyed broad popularity following his 1998 election, Maduro faces slim odds at the ballot box and critics say he is calling the assembly precisely to avoid or delay free elections.

Luis Salamanca, political science professor at Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, said Maduro's plan is a political calculation, not a constitutional one. "All of Venezuelan knows it".

"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 red-shirted supporters.

Maduro, by contrast, has seen his political capital sapped by triple-digit inflation and years of chronic shortages of food and consumer goods.

Various analysts said the socialist president was playing for time and looking to delay presidential elections due next year.

The opposition has been demanding general elections to try and end the socialists' 18-year rule.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls for new consitution

Opponents fear Maduro would stuff the assembly with supporters and manipulate the elected seats by giving extra weight to pro-government workers and unions.

The president of the National Parliament, Julio Borges, said the call for a new constitution represents the continuation and consolidation of a coup in Venezuela.

The announcement came after another day of anti-government protests in Caracas that have claimed at least 30 lives over the past month.

Earlier Monday, anti-Maduro protesters tried to march on government buildings in downtown Caracas, but police blocked their path - just as authorities have done more than a dozen times in four weeks of near-daily protests.

Fitzpatrick said the U.S.is still trying to figure out potential mediation efforts to bring the government and opposition-led parties back together. The president will send the Electoral Council conditions for the election of the constituents of that assembly, whose members will participate in writing a new constitution.

"So therefore we view it as a step backwards", he said.

Congress president Julio Borges called a constitutional assembly a "giant fraud" by Maduro and his allies created to keep them in power.

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