Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly Assumes Parliamentary Powers

August 25, 2017
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By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim / Venezuela Analysis.

Puebla, Mexico, August 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) approved Friday a decree that will allow it to legislate on national security issues.

Under the decree, the ANC will be empowered to pass legislation on issues including the “preservation of peace, security, sovereignty, the socio-economic and financial system,” according to its president, Delcy Rodriguez.

“We will give a historical lesson to the Venezuelan right-wing … we are not going to allow the Venezuelan future to be compromised,” Rodriguez said.

Venezuela’s parliament, the National Assembly (AN) is controlled by the country’s right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD. The body has, however, been in contempt of court since July 2016 when it swore in three legislators accused of voter fraud in violation of a Supreme Court ruling.

The ongoing standoff between the legislative and judicial branches has led to a paralysis in the government, preventing the country from approving urgent oil and gas deals with international firms, which require parliamentary authorization.

The MUD has no official representatives at the ANC, due to an opposition boycott of the constituent process, which occurred alongside violent anti-government protests that saw 200 voting centers attacked on July 30. Instead, the ANC is largely dominated by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and progressive grassroots movements. Elected in July, the ANC has the authority not only to write a new constitution that will ultimately be subject to popular referendum, but also to supervise the country’s five branches of government.

The ANC’s move to assume specific legislative functions was approved only after the parliamentary leadership boycotted Friday a meeting called by the constituent assembly to discuss coordination between the two institutions.

Nonetheless, the AN has responded by describing the move as a “coup”.

“The ANC is void and its acts are illegal and unconstitutional. [This] decision will not be accepted by AN, the international community or the people,” the AN said in a statement.

An emergency meeting will be held tomorrow morning by legislators, who say they will seek to fight the ANC’s decree, and have accused Maduro of a power grab.

The opposition made similar allegations earlier this year, when the Supreme Court announced it would assume some of the AN’s powers in order to approve a slew of joint venture agreements with Russian and Chinese energy firms put on hold by the legislature. The decision was quickly reversed, after it met with widespread outrage from the opposition, while the US cited the move when it sanctioned eight Venezuelan Supreme Court judges in May.

ANC President Rodriguez, for her part, has clarified that the decree will under no circumstances dissolve the National Assembly.

“[The AN] was not dissolved. The Constituent Assembly is obligating [the AN] to coexist [with other branches of government. They [the opposition] can’t use this space to promote coups,” she declared.

The AN has previously come under fire for approving unconstitutional legislation as well as for declaring last October and again in January that President Maduro had “abandoned” his post in what was criticized at the time as a “parliamentary coup” attempt. 

With additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

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