Maduro installs new Venezuela assembly

Venezuela's Vote Turnout Was Manipulated, Election Company Reports

A new legislative body that is expected to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and give new powers to the ruling Socialist Party has been inaugurated in Caracas.

Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez was elected unopposed to be the head of the Constituent Assembly, with former Minister Aristobulo Isturiz selected as First Vice President and former Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez elected as Second Vice President.

Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, has managed not only to bankrupt his once-prosperous, oil-rich nation, but now wants to rob it of the democracy it once enjoyed.

Earlier Saturday, Ortega, a longtime loyalist who broke with the socialist government in April, said she was pushed and barred from entering her office by dozens of national guardsmen in riot gear who took control of the entrance to the building.

"Do not think we're going to wait weeks, months or years", Rodriguez said during her first speech Friday.

Citing the "rupture of the democratic order", Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil unanimously chose to suspend Venezuela from Mercosur, a South American trading bloc.

The Vatican has called for a suspension of the Constituent Assembly, saying Friday that it contributed to a climate of tension and conflict.

The assembly has been meeting in a room separate from the main parliamentary hall, where opposition lawmakers vowed to hold session Monday.

The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is facing a hard and complex work, starting today, to defend, deepen, renew and reinforce the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The Assembly was installed in the Federal Legislative Palace of Caracas, next to the hall of sessions of the National Assembly (Congress), which has an opposition majority and whose future is unknown.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said his armed forces should prepare in "non-traditional combat methods" as they confront an "armed insurgency" as the country reels in political turmoil. While the government said that eight million citizens voted in favour of establishing the Constituent Assembly, the company that provided voting machines for the election said the turnout numbers results were tampered with. "And yesterday's installation of the Constituent Assembly was the birth of dictatorship in Venezuela".

The constituent assembly replaced Ms Ortega with human rights ombudsman Tarek Saab, a government ally whom the opposition says has turned a blind eye to state abuses.

Fellow opposition leader Leopoldo López, re-arrested on the same night as Ledezma after having previously been placed under house arrest, remains incarcerated.

He also accused the United States of "imperialism" after it hit him with direct sanctions and threatened to do the same with all of the assembly's members. These solutions must take into account "the serious suffering of the people", due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail to house arrest, his wife said.

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