Venezuela ruling socialists to close all-powerful legislative assembly

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, a government-backed legislature created in 2017 that was widely criticized for undermining democracy, will cease operations at the end of 2020, President Nicolas Maduro said yesterday.

The all-powerful organization was officially designated to reform the constitution, but in practice ended up replacing the opposition-controlled legislature and dismissing public officials who challenged the government.

Maduro has said the assembly, known as the ANC, is no longer necessary following the Dec. 6 elections that will take the lead in a new parliament dominated by the ruling Socialist Party legislators. The current parliamentary term ends on January 5.

Maduro in 2017 called for the creation of the ANC following months of opposition protests that left more than a hundred people dead.

“The main objective of this National Constituent Assembly was to restore republican peace, internal security, national unity and the stability of the country,” Maduro said in a ceremonial session. “And today I can say, National Constituent Assembly, mission accomplished.”

The Opposition boycotted the election that created the ANC, and called the United States and Europe a consolidation of dictatorship and disavowal of the democratically elected legislature.

The 2017 protests ended quickly after that election.

But despite being in existence for three years, the ANC did not amend the constitution.

Instead he enacted a host of measures including an anti-hate law that is widely used to criticize prison government, remove a group of opposition parliamentary immunity lawmakers and remove former Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who had fallen out with Maduro.

The 1999 constitution only describes the ANC as a body with no limits on its power. Critics insist that its intended function was never to serve as a parallel legislature.