AP Explains: What’s behind Venezuela’s constituent assembly?
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has provoked international criticism and angered his political opponents by pressing for a special assembly to rewrite the constitution of the troubled South American nation.
The Sunday election to the delegates at the meeting came after almost four months of political turmoil that resulted in more than 100 deaths and left thousands of people injured and detained.
Few details have been revealed in the constitutional changes that could be in the store. But the socialist president’s allies said the meeting will address opposition leaders, prompting warnings. Maduro will use the assembly to install an autocratic regime.
Mentor Maduro, the late President Hugo Chavez also asked to rewrite the constitution shortly after taking office in 1999, but unlike Maduro, he held a first referendum for the blessing of Venezuelans.
Even some “chavistas” rejected the will to change the constitution, that polarizes still more a country already deeply divided.
In total, 364 delegates will be selected by geography: in each of the 23 states of Venezuela, a delegate will be granted by the municipality, while the state capitals have two.
But some of the more populated states have relatively few municipalities, while others have much smaller ones. This means that a state like Miranda, a population of almost 3 million dollars, will receive four short delegates from Falcón, which has about 1 million people.
Critics say they favor unfairly the rural areas where Maduro is most popular in cities respect the opposition as Caracas, the capital.
Another 173 delegates come from different categories of social groups, including workers, students, farmers and fishermen.
Eight slots are reserved for indigenous communities. The way the government has determined that it qualifies in each category was not revealed, but all these sectors traditionally have close ties to Chavez and the left-wing political movement Maduro.
Maduro referred to the constituent assembly only in vague terms, and described it as a great solution to Venezuela’s long list of political and economic suffering. But some of his closest collaborators have provided clues as to what might come.
On Wednesday, the first lady Cilia Flores as Maduro calls the “first fighter” of Venezuela, said the meeting will create a peace and justice commission that will ensure that officials of the current political turmoil “pay and learn their lesson . ”
Diosdado Cabello, the first vice-president of the Socialist Party of Venezuela says that the legislators detraquera meeting of immunity against prosecution in the National Assembly, controlled by the opposition.
He added that the office of the Attorney General of Venezuela, which has recently become one of the more open critics Maduro, will be “overthrown.”
The assembly must remain the first socialist policies installed by Chávez.
In addition to rewriting the constitution, the Constituent Assembly could function as a super body that assumes the powers of the National Assembly, the only branch of government without control of Maduro.