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Venezuela reinstates opposition leader's house arrest


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is heading toward a showdown with his political foes, promising to seat a new constituent assembly Friday that will rewrite the country's constitution and hold powers that override all other government branches.

Maduro's former foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez, who now heads the Constituent Assembly, had vowed to go after those seen to be behind months of anti-government protests.

The assembly, elected in a controversial ballot on July 30 that the opposition boycotted, voted on Saturday to permanently remove Ortega Diaz, 59, from her post after the Supreme Court ruled on Friday evening to suspend her and send her to trial.

"Don't think we're going to wait weeks, months or years", she said Friday.

"If we had had a prosecutor's office that took action and acted courageously according to justice، all of these guarimberos (violent opposition demonstrators) and criminals would have been captured، punished and imprisoned and we would have had peace a long time ago،" Maduro noted.

Several human rights groups and foreign government have denounced excessive use of force by members of the security forces and Venezuela's chief prosecutor is investigating several uniformed officers for firing live ammunition on protesters in apparent violation of the constitution.

They also urged Maduro to release political prisoners, stop his political repression and step down.

But with the European Union and other nations also condemning the Constituent Assembly, Maduro is fighting against a broad tide, even if he has support of Russian Federation, which holds billions in Venezuelan debt, as well as Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua. But to no avail: the Constituent is Maduros protest, his only way to maintain some semblance of power after losing the National Assembly in late 2015 by a landslide.


It was also widely dismissed as illegitimate by the global community, who saw it as a way for Maduro to bypass the legitimate Parliament - the National Assembly - which is now controlled by the right-wing opposition.

Maduro also faced criticism after two opposition leaders were taken from their homes after the election. Government intelligence officials said both men were arrested for violating the terms of their house arrests, claiming they planned to flee the country after the elections.

The previous day Ms Ortega filed an injunction seeking to block the installation of the newly-elected constitutional assembly.

Smartmatic said the official turnout figure had been "tampered with" and exaggerated by at least one million voters.

It also called on Venezuela to respect human rights and the country's current constitution. Its election on Sunday prompted US President Donald Trump to label Maduro as a dictator.

And in a surprise reversal, security forces transferred the Caracas mayor, Antonio Ledezma, from jail to house arrest, just days after they whisked him out of his home in his pajamas in a midnight raid.

His critics accuse him of running roughshod over the country's democratic institutions and of overseeing an economic collapse that has left millions struggling to eat and driven inflation into the triple digits.

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