CARACAS – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC), installed to write a new constitution, unanimously voted on Saturday in favor of continuing its work for at least two years.
Chavista leader Diosdado Cabello said the assembly – made up of more than 500 representatives aligned with the Chavista government – agreed to extend its work for two years “but only if it has completed the work assigned it” by that time.
“It could be less, but we’re not going to limit it,” the first vice president of the ruling party added later in a statement to reporters, during a recess of the institution’s first session at the Federal Legislative Palace in Caracas.
He said decisions taken by the Constituent Assembly should not startle public opinion, since they will be rulings issued by an institution with unlimited and incontestable powers.
Cabello said that by “acclamation and unanimity,” the ANC passed in its first debate the ouster of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz from her position and replaced her with Ombud Tarek William Saab.
With another unanimous vote on Saturday, the ANC designated ruling party member Delcy Rodriguez to preside over the so-called Truth Commission, which will investigate the violent anti-government protests in recent months.
President Maduro had asked at the end of May that the Truth Commission be created and invested with plenipotentiary powers to guarantee that the justice system compensate victims of the wave of violence, which by that date had left a death toll of 30, and which has now risen to over 100.
Constituent Assembly member Hermann Escarra, who advised President Nicolas Maduro to promote the ANC project, told EFE last June that the work of the new institution would last 12 months, according to government estimates.
He added that the presidential election was planned for December 2018 and that the date could not be changed under the existing constitution.
Escarra also considered that, once the Constituent Assembly is installed, the first days of its work will be “difficult,” since it must function under a statute that regulated the process in 1999 – when the current constitution was approved – until a new system of work is decided on.
The 1999 regulations, the jurist said, say that the ANC can “limit, decide, terminate and substitute” the activities of all holders of public office but, he added, applying that condition “in a polarized society like this could increase the conflict” on the political scene.
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