Venezuelans vote today to elect a National Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the country’s 1999 constitution.
The Assembly is meant to help resolve Venezuela’s political crisis and stabilise a security situation marked by violent protests that have left hundreds dead. Planned constitutional changes include creating a “peace and justice” commission to target violent protestors and make them “learn their lesson” in the words of First Lady Cilia Flores. Additionally, Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello has advocated stripping legislators of immunity from prosecution.
Critics of the new body say that it’s designed to circumvent the opposition-controlled legislature and will be used as an excuse to delay presidential elections scheduled for 2018. Today’s poll has also drawn international condemnation, with Canada and the EU calling on Venezuela to halt the vote and President Donald Trump threatening sanctions if it goes forward.
The proposed assembly will likely be controlled by government loyalists as its electoral districts over-represent Maduro-friendly rural areas and the opposition has called on supporters to boycott the vote.
The government has banned protest for the day, but expect violence to escalate as the government deploys 370,000 soldiers to confront those violating the ban.