Venezuelan Attorney General Rejects National Constituent Assembly in Leaked Letter

The top prosecutor warned that in lieu of promoting “national reconciliation”, the process of overhauling the constitution “would accelerate the crisis”

By Lucas Koerner

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Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz criticized the Maduro government's decision to hold a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. (Archive)
Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz criticized the Maduro government's decision to hold a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. (Archive)
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Caracas, May 22, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz has come out against the Maduro government’s initiative to convene a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to rewrite the country’s constitution. 

“To resolve the undeniable crisis without precedent the country is undergoing, it is not necessary, pertinent, or advisable to carry out a transformation of the state in terms of a new constitution,” the nation’s top prosecutor declared in a statement leaked to the press on Friday.

Addressed to the president of the Presidential Commission for the Constituent Assembly, Elias Jaua, the letter warned that in lieu of promoting “national reconciliation”, the process of overhauling the constitution “would accelerate the crisis”.

In particular, Ortega criticized what she termed the “sectorial or corporative character” of the ANC, which she claimed amounted to “indirect representation”.

According to the presidential decree triggering the process, the ANC will be comprised of 500 delegates, half of whom will be elected among regional districts, while the other half will be chosen by “sectorial” constituencies, including workers, students, pensioners, indigenous peoples, disabled people, and national business confederations. All delegates will be elected directly by their constituencies via secret ballots. 

While the Venezuelan opposition has yet to respond to Ortega’s letter, Organization of American States General Secretary Luis Almagro took to Twitter Friday to applaud the attorney general’s posture. 

“We support the juridical position of Venezuela Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz in defense of what’s right,” he stated. 

Almagro has long made his reputation as one of the most vocal international adversaries of the Maduro government, campaigning incessantly for the suspension of Venezuela from the OAS under the body’s Democratic Charter despite repeated accusations of bias from member-states. Last month, Venezuela initiated the 24-month process of withdrawing from the regional organization.

On Monday, Jaua formally responded to Ortega’s letter on behalf of the Presidential Commission during a press conference, welcoming the top prosecutor’s letter as “one more opinion”.

“We have received the opinion of Doctor Luisa Ortega Diaz as one more political opinion of the many that we have received in this whole exchange with sectors who support the initiative [the ANC] and with sectors that don’t support it,” he declared.

Nonetheless, the Presidential Constituent Commission president and education minister noted that while Ortega is entitled to her opinion, “the only body authorized to interpret the national constitution is the constitutional tribunal of the Supreme Court.”

Jaua also indicated that the copy of the letter circulated in the media does not bear the official stamp of receipt by the commission, suggesting that the document was leaked by the attorney general’s office.

The leaked letter is the latest in a series of critical statements issued by Ortega with regard to the other branches of government, particularly the Supreme Court and the national executive.

In late March, the attorney general spoke out against a Supreme Court ruling that temporarily authorized the judiciary to carry out legislative functions, calling it a “violation of the constitution”.

The decision was promptly reversed, but served as the trigger for violent opposition protests demanding the ouster of the government, which have left at least 55 dead in seven weeks.

The main oposition coalition, for its part, has announced it will boycott the ANC, vowing to remain in the streets until early general elections are called. 

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