Venezuela leader: Will use new assembly to go after foes

Ariana Cubillos

Residents of Petare neighborhood walk near a barricade made by anti-government demonstrators to protest against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, July 29, 2017. Despite four months of deadly protests and the threat of U.S. sanctions, Venezuela on Saturday found itself 24 hours away from a consolidation of government power that appeared certain to drag the OPEC nation deeper into a crisis that has entire neighborhoods battling police and paramilitaries while the poor root for scraps in piles of trash. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro pledged Saturday evening to go after his political foes with the virtually unlimited powers of a constitutional assembly being elected Sunday, while Venezuela’s opposition made a last-ditch effort to flood streets across the country in defiance of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police.

In an address on state-run television, Maduro made clear he wants the assembly to strip opposition legislators of their constitutional immunity from prosecution and jail at least one.

“This little Hitler has his cell guaranteed!” Maduro shouted, using his frequent nickname for Freddy Guevara, a hard-line opposition leader and one the highest-profile organizers of four months of protests against the government.

The opposition is boycotting Sunday’s vote, contending the election has been structured to ensure Maduro’s ruling socialist party continues to dominate. So all 5,500 candidates for the 545 seats in the constituent assembly are government supporters.

The vote’s success will be measured by turnout, with the opposition urging Venezuelans to stay and the government encouraging participation with tactics that include threats to state workers’ jobs and social benefits like subsidized food for the poor.

Maduro indicated he is eager to prosecute many more members of the opposition parties that control a handful of state governments along with the National Assembly, providing one of…

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