Venezuela's ruling Socialists to shut all-powerful legislative assembly

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

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

Maduro has said the assembly, known as the ANC, is no longer necessary following Dec. 6 elections that will usher in a new parliament dominated by ruling Socialist Party legislators. The current parliament’s term ends on Jan 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 the peace of the republic, internal security, national union 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 the United States and Europe called it the consolidation of a dictatorship and a 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 reform the constitution.

Instead it legislated a raft of measures including an anti-hate law widely used to jail government critics, stripped a group of opposition legislators of parliamentary immunity and sacked 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 its intended function was never to serve as a parallel legislature.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera; editing by Grant McCool