CARACAS – Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz filed three new motions in court on Thursday in an effort to stop the constituent assembly being organized by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In filings with the Supreme Court, which is filled with Maduro loyalists, she challenged executive orders calling for a citizens’ assembly to be convened to write a new constitution and establishing the framework for electing its members.
Ortega Diaz also challenged decisions of electoral authorities related to that process, her office said in a statement.
The high court denied two earlier motions against the constituent assembly that were filed by the attorney general, who has spent the last few months at odds with Maduro’s leftist government as it seeks a way out of a worsening economic crisis and political deadlock with the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Maduro is seeking to resolve a severe political crisis in Venezuela, which is also in deep recession and racked by food and medicine shortages and sky-high inflation.
Ortega Diaz argued that the head of state may only propose a constituent assembly but cannot decree that one be convened. She says an assembly to draft a new constitution must be approved via a national plebiscite and that ignoring that requirement would violate the current charter.
The opposition, which launched a wave of protests on April 1 that have left 67 dead and more than 1,000 injured, does not plan to participate in the process to overhaul the 1999 constitution, arguing that the government merely wants to hold on to power and is violating the law by not first holding a referendum to ask citizens whether they want to rewrite the charter.
On Tuesday, the attorney general called on the Supreme Court to remove the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by eight justices of that tribunal’s constitutional chamber. The high court has not yet ruled on that motion.
Ortega Diaz wrote in her petition that those judges’ immunity should be stripped away so they can be prosecuted for alleged “conspiracy against the republican form of government.”
She was referring specifically to decisions taken by that chamber in late March that stripped the National Assembly of its remaining authority, although that decision was later partially annulled.
In its initial ruling, the high court said the unicameral legislature’s move early last year to ignore an earlier decision by the tribunal and seat three lawmakers accused of electoral fraud – and thereby give the opposition a supermajority – put it in contempt of court.
Prior to that ruling, the Supreme Court had already taken away the legislature’s budgetary authority in the wake of the opposition’s landslide victory in the December 2015 parliamentary elections.
Those elections marked a major turning point in Venezuelan politics, which have been dominated for nearly 20 years by Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.