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Venezuela showdown looms over contested new assembly

06 August 2017

In a statement released on Friday, the Vatican is asking for Venezuela's constitutional assembly to be suspended, which President Nicolas Maduro was expected to confirm today, after a fraudulent election on Sunday allegedly gave him popular support to do so. "The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming for you".

The Chilean foreign minister said that a judge from Venezuela's alternative top court took shelter on Thursday at the Chilean Embassy in Caracas, which already hosts four his colleagues and an opposition leader. "Tomorrow we start to act".

Maduro faces accusations at home and overseas of trampling on democracy with the election last weekend of the assembly in a vote boycotted by the opposition and allegedly marred by fraud. As one of its first tasks, Maduro has ordered the assembly to declare Ortega Diaz's office in a state of emergency and entirely restructure it.

"I feel deeply the wounds of each one of you", Maduro said addressing a small group of injured national guardsmen scarred with burns, on crutches and wearing neck braces. An increasing number of foreign governments have refused to recognize the assembly and many within Venezuela fear it will create a one-party state.

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Venezuela has been racked by crisis for several months, with Maduro's regime placing opposition figureheads such as Ledezma under house arrest as protests rage across the country.

The electoral authority itself - criticized as a Maduro mouthpiece - denied the vote-tampering allegation as "an irresponsible contention based on estimates with no grounding in the data".

In a statement, the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that rather than favouring peace and reconciliation, the establishment of the National Constituent Assembly aggravated the crisis in Venezuela, Efe news reported.

The 545-member assembly - whose members include Maduro's wife and son - will have sweeping powers to dissolve the opposition-majority congress, pass laws and write a new constitution.

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In a continuing show of defiance, Ortega Diaz filed papers Thursday seeking a court order to block installation of the new assembly.

Smartmatic has provided the technological platform for voting and services for Venezuelan elections since 2004.

Voting technology firm Smartmatic, which provides the South American OPEC member country's voting machines, said on Wednesday the official turnout figure of 8.1 million votes in Sunday's election had been inflated by at least 1 million votes.

Pledges by opposition lawmakers to remain in power no matter what action the constituent assembly takes have opened the possibility of two governing bodies operating side by side - neither recognizing the other.

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Venezuela showdown looms over contested new assembly