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Venezuela’s Attorney General Demands Supreme Court Halt Constituent Assembly

Puebla, Mexico, June 9, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega called Thursday for the country’s highest court to block a proposed constituent assembly.

In a statement delivered to the Supreme Court (TSJ), Ortega accused President Nicolas Maduro of undermining Venezuela’s participatory democracy by calling a constituent assembly (ANC) without an initial referendum on whether the Venezuelan people want a new constitution.

With the power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution, the ANC was called on May Day by Maduro, who suggested the assembly could help resolve the country’s political standoff. However, critics of the ANC such as Ortega have claimed the president doesn’t have the power to call the assembly, and instead should put the issue to an initial consultation with the electorate. 

When the TSJ ruled last month no such referendum is necessary according to the constitution, Ortega responded by issuing a legal challenge, questioning whether the decision undermined the constitution’s spirit of participatory democracy. That legal challenge was dismissed by the TSJ Wednesday, after the court ruled Ortega had no legal standing in the matter. The same day, Venezuela’s electoral authority, the CNE, announced ANC elections will take place on July 30.

In yet another challenge to the ANC, Ortega has now called on the TSJ to completely block all preparation for the ANC.

“Now I am asking the electoral chamber [of the TSJ] to nullify the decisions of the National Electoral Council; first the decision to call elections for the National Constituent Assembly, because the presidential decree did not comply with legal requirements,” she said.

Ortega continued by reiterating her allegations that Maduro doesn’t have the legal right to call the ANC, before adding, “It is the sovereign people who have the authority to convene [the ANC].”

She also accused the president of “destroying the legacy” of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

"Chavismo is a current of thought, it's a philosophy of life, and this is the principal legacy of President Hugo Chavez," she said.

Ortega’s criticism of the Maduro government has been welcomed by the right-wing opposition, while sparking controversy on Venezuela’s left. While much of Venezuela’s progressive grassroots view the ANC as an opportunity to deepen the country’s socialist revolution, Ortega’s latest legal challenge has been endorsed by Marea Socialista, a left-wing party that broke from Maduro in 2014.

“Marea Socialista is one of the organisations that on behalf of its members expresses … support for the appeal of the attorney general … and is in disagreement with the constituent assembly,” the party said in a statement.

Maduro himself is yet to respond to the comments. However, just hours later, Hugo Chavez’s brother, cultural minister Adan Chavez, took to state media to condemn what he called “fakers”. Without naming Ortega, Adan claimed some government officials are “manipulating” the memory of Chavez.

“We believe and practice what the 1999 constitution says, [and] a truly participatory democracy,” he said.

Adan continued, “We continue to keep the letter of the constitution alive, because every day … we are showing that we are effectively living in a proactive and participatory democracy – the opposite of the manipulation used by the national and international right [wing], which continues to be using psychological warfare, and [waging a] dirty war.”

Maduro has confirmed that the new constitution will have to go to a referendum to be approved. 

Published on Jun 9th 2017 at 11.05am