Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela President, Calls for a Rewrite of the Constitution


“From my point of view, they are in a dire situation that they don’t know how to continue using the normal mechanisms, such as having elections,” said Enrique Sánchez Falcón, a legal expert and professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

Venezuela’s opposition quickly rejected the president’s proposal. Henrique Capriles, a state governor who narrowly lost to Mr. Maduro in an election in 2013, dismissed the plan as a “fraud” that had been “announced by a dictator.”

“People to the street to disobey this madness,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Mr. Maduro’s supporters urged the opposition to accept the constitutional process as a means of settling their disagreements.

“There are violent groups that don’t understand that violence won’t get us anywhere, and that we must have a dialogue despite our differences,” said Hermann Escarrá, a legal adviser to Mr. Maduro.

It was unclear precisely how Mr. Maduro wanted the Constitution changed. Some legal experts said the constitutional assembly could be used to sideline Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been attacked by the country’s courts.

Venezuela has been rocked for the last month by huge street protests against Mr. Maduro’s government, which have been met with repression by the security forces. At least 29 people have been killed.

A dismal economy has led to shortages of food and medicine, and a Supreme Court decision last month to strip power from the National Assembly led to the protests.

The court, on Mr. Maduro’s urging, later reversed much of its ruling. But his opponents say he is continuing to govern in an authoritarian manner, and they are demanding new elections.

Rewriting the Constitution would forestall any elections, legal experts said.

The last president to initiate a rewriting of the Constitution was Hugo Chávez in 1999, shortly after he took power and declared his plans for socialist reforms to benefit poor and working-class Venezuelans.

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