Maduro says country facing 'armed insurgency,' thrashes chief prosecutor

Sunday, 06 Aug, 2017

In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who broke with Maduro last March, said she was not inside the building but was en route to her office, where government forces had sequestered her staff.

She said prosecutors had lodged court cases seeking to have the Constituent Assembly annulled, though few in Venezuela believed that would happen - and the new assembly could also fire her as one of its first actions.

"You know what they want to accomplish with this?"

The U.S. State Department called the assembly illegitimate Thursday, saying the election was rigged to further entrench "the Maduro dictatorship".

Venezuelan law enforcers on Friday dispersed anti-National Constituent Assembly protesters of several hundred who took to Caracas streets with home-made Molotov cocktails.

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be "avoided or suspended" since they "foment a climate of tension and conflict" which "mortgages the future" of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

But the opposition is struggling to regain its footing in the face of the government's strong-armed tactics and the re-emergence of old, internal divisions.

Opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, who had encouraged protests against the constituent assembly, on Friday morning was returned to house arrest after being briefly put back in prison. But the crisis shows no signs of abating.

"The United States holds Maduro - who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition - personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr. Lopez, Mr. Ledezma, and any others seized", reads the August 1 statement.

Members of the Constituent Assembly attend its installation at the National Congress in Caracas on August 4, 2017.

She says it raises doubts about whether the body can represent all parts of Venezuelan society.

McMaster cites the historical resentment in Latin America over the long history of USA military interventions in the region.

The message says Francis is closely following the crisis' "humanitarian, social, political, economic and also spiritual" developments.

"It's important for us to place responsibility for this catastrophe on Maduro's shoulders".

Meanwhile, the South American trade bloc Mercosur suspended Venezuela indefinitely on Saturday, adding to worldwide pressure on Maduro to restore democracy. Mercosur members said the suspension would continue until democratic order is restored.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said that Brazil will propose suspending Venezuela from the sub-regional Mercosur trade bloc. "Essentially what Mercosur is saying is: Without democracy, no, you can not be a part of Mercosur".

The statement comes as the body's 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

According to internal electoral council data previously reviewed by Reuters, only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30 Venezuela's election on Sunday.