CARACAS – Venezuela’s government-supporting Constituent National Assembly (ANC) approved unanimously on Wednesday abolishing the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office of Caracas, whose latest elected mayor, opposition figure Antonio Ledezma, fled the country last month after being deprived of his freedom for more than 1,000 days.
“The liquidation of the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office, the Metropolitan City Council and the Metropolitan Comptroller’s Office ... are ordered,” the ANC decree reads.
With jurisdiction over the five municipalities comprising Greater Caracas, the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office was considered the country’s most powerful municipal institution.
After Ledezma’s first electoral victory in 2008, the government of then-President Hugo Chavez created a parallel mayor’s office, a move that left the capacity for action by the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office severely weakened.
The all-powerful ANC – comprised completely of government supporters who have made all their decisions unanimously since they took over the functions of Parliament in August – also eliminated the Mayor’s Office at Alto Apure, located in western Venezuela.
The Caracas and Alto Apure city halls were the only two such entities in the country not to hold elections on Dec. 10, when the rest of the country’s municipalities selected mayors in local balloting.
The speakers at the ANC session at which the offices were abolished claimed that “inefficiency” and “corruption” in the two institutions, along with delays in paying workers, were the reasons behind their abolishment.
Ledezma, who was arrested in February 2015 on charges of crimes of criminal association and conspiracy – for which he has never been brought to trial –, declared a hunger strike to protest what he said was the usurpation of his duties.
In addition, the ANC approved on Wednesday a decree establishing that the parties wanting to participate in the upcoming presidential elections must have participated in the earlier elections. It also forced those that did not participate in earlier votes to renew their registration with election authorities if they want to remain eligible to field candidates.
The decree endangers the position of opposition parties Democratic Action, Popular Will and First Justice, who did not participate in the Dec. 10 municipal elections and could find themselves excluded from the 2018 presidential vote.
Meanwhile, the interim mayor of Caracas, opposition politician Ali Mansour, said on Wednesday that the decision by the ANC to eliminate the Metropolitan Caracas Mayor’s Office is a “coup d’etat,” adding that the entity’s workers are being attacked by “government-supporting groups.”
“The ANC’s decision today to eliminate a body elected by Caracas residents, a body enshrined in the Constitution ... simply and clearly constitutes a coup d’etat against the Constitution, the vote, the right of Caracas residents to elect” their public officials, Mansour said at a press conference.