World News

Venezuela Constituent Assembly will not draft new magna carta, Cabello says

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly will not deliver a new constitution, the legislature’s chief Diosdado Cabello said on Sunday, despite repeated assurances from assembly members that the body was preparing to update the 1999 magna carta.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello holds a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

President Nicolas Maduro called for the creation of the assembly to draft a new constitution amid 2017 opposition protests that appeared to threaten his hold on power.

The opposition boycotted the vote that created the body, which, due to vague wording of the constitution, is given unchecked powers. Opposition members accuse the government of revamping the constitution to give unlimited power to the ruling Socialist Party.

“No, that’s one of the premises that could be fulfilled by the National Constituent Assembly, another is to recreate the state,” said Cabello when asked about drafting a new magna carta in an interview with Culture Minister Ernesto Villegas broadcast online.

“We gave ourselves a mandate ... until December 31, 2020.”

The group has functioned as a parallel congress that supplanted the legislature, which the opposition won in a 2015 landslide.

Since 2017, it has stripped lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity, sacked the chief prosecutor, and annulled the election of an opposition governor who refused to recognize it.

The creation of the 545-member assembly was harshly condemned by governments around the world. It cemented Maduro’s status as a pariah among Europe and the United States, which accelerated its sanctions against his government.

Cabello in the interview said that the assembly’s term was set to expire in 2020 and the Socialist Party expects to regain control of the legislature.

The vote for the new congress is scheduled for Dec 6.

A broad coalition of opposition parties has vowed to boycott the election, though a separate faction led by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles is in talks with the government for better electoral conditions.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela, Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Aurora Ellis