CARACAS, Venezuela – The head of Venezuela’s newly installed constitutional assembly pledged to move quickly against President Nicolas Maduro’s political opponents, beginning as early as the all-powerful body’s second meeting on Saturday.
Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez’s nomination as leader was unanimously approved by the assembly’s 545 delegates in Friday’s session, which was held despite strong criticism from Washington and Venezuela’s opposition, which fear the body will be a tool for imposing dictatorship. Supporters say it will pacify a country rocked by violent protests.
The assembly was scheduled to meet again Saturday, and Rodriguez said it would be taking action against the socialist government’s opponents.
“Don’t think we’re going to wait weeks, months or years,” she said on Friday. “Tomorrow we start to act. The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming for you.”
The installation of the constitutional assembly is virtually certain to intensify a political crisis that has brought four months of protests that left at least 120 people dead and hundreds jailed. Maduro vows the assembly will strip opposition lawmakers of their constitutional immunity from prosecution, while members of congress say they will only be removed by force.
But the opposition is struggling to regain its footing in the face of the government’s strong-armed tactics and the re-emergence of old, internal divisions. Several opposition activists have been jailed in recent days, others are rumored to be seeking exile and one leader has broken ranks from the opposition alliance to say his party will field candidates in regional elections despite widespread mistrust in Venezuela’s electoral system.
In a sign of its apparent demoralized state only a few…