President Nicolas Maduro’s government says it is close to convening a special assembly endowed with powers to rewrite the constitution, override other branches of government and punish opposition leaders.
Two of his leading foes already were dragged from their homes by heavily armed security agents and thrown in a military prison Tuesday, drawing condemnation from the United States and some Latin American countries. But many other nations and international organizations were silent or limited themselves to expressions of concern.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were accused by the government-allied Supreme Court of violating the terms of their house arrest by plotting to escape and releasing video statements criticizing Maduro.
Both men’s supporters denied the charges and vowed to continue to try to push the ruling socialist party from power. However, they gave little indication of how they planned to do that, and the capital was unusually quiet after months of sometimes violent protests.
Lopez’s supporters released a video that he taped last week saying he expected to be imprisoned again soon, and calling on Venezuelans to be firm in resisting Maduro.
“If you are looking at this video now, it’s precisely because that occurred, because they came and they illegally imprisoned me again unjustly, a prisoner of consciousness, a prisoner for my ideas, a prisoner for wanting a better Venezuela,” the 46-year-old Lopez said.
He also said that his wife, Lilian Tintori, is pregnant, touching her belly and saying he has “one more reason to fight for Venezuela.” He called the pregnancy “the best news I’ve received in the last 3 1/2 years” — the time he spent behind bars before being released to house arrest last month. The couple had been allowed some conjugal visits.
Maduro appeared undeterred in his plans to seat a special assembly this week with powers to rewrite the constitution and override any other branch of the Venezuelan government. He has threatened to use those powers to go after his opponents and the arrests Tuesday appeared to show he is willing to proceed with full force.
Maduro appeared to have the full support of the country’s most important institutions.
Venezuela’s powerful vice president, whom the U.S. has accused of drug trafficking, said the newly elected constituent assembly would be convening “within hours.”
In remarks shown on Venezuela’s state television, Tareck El Aissami said the results from Sunday’s…