World

After losing control of Parliament, Venezuelan socialists create a new one

Venezuela's ruling socialist regime, on the heels of a stunning defeat in which the opposition party gained a supermajority in parliament, has decided to simply create a new grassroots parliament of their own.

Opponents fear this new grassroots parliament could be an attempt by embattled President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist party to undermine the opposition's landslide victory in congressional elections.

Maduro and his regime find themselves with their backs against the wall after the Democratic Unity Roundtable, the opposition party, won 112 seats in Parliament last week. The win gives the opposition a two-thirds supermajority over the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela which won 55 seats.

The opposition party's election win, celebrated by many U.S. politicians, marks their first national election victory since former President Hugo Chavez started his socialist movement in 1998. 

On Tuesday, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello presided over the inauguration inside the legislature building of the first-ever "National Communal Parliament" with the aim of giving revolutionary activists a mechanism to make decisions and manage resources.

Cabello didn't offer details on how the grassroots assembly, an outgrowth of the late Hugo Chavez's dream of empowering self-administering communal councils, will operate.

But opponents fear it could be an attempt to wrest control from the incoming opposition-controlled congress much as other central government-created agencies have been entrusted with large budgets operating parallel to defunded districts where opposition politicians govern.

Maduro has been defiant in the face of the opposition's winning a two-third supermajority in Dec. 6 elections, vowing to take to the streets to defend the revolution started by Chavez and blaming the loss on an "economic war" waged with U.S. support.

He also shot down several top priorities for the incoming congress, including an amnesty law for jailed activists the opposition considers political prisoners.

On Tuesday, in a meeting with grassroots activists, he praised the new legislative initiative with heated rhetoric.

"I'm going to give all the power to the communal parliament," Maduro said.

"This parliament is going to be a legislative mechanism from the grassroots. All power to the Communal parliament," he said, without giving details.

In another slap to the opposition, lawmakers also swore in Tuesday as the nation's top public defender the judge, Susana Barreiros, who this year sentenced opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to nearly 14 years in jail.

Cabello is vowing to ram through in the coming days the appointment of 12 Supreme Court justices to fill vacancies left by pro-government judges who retired early rather than risk seeing the high court tilt toward the opposition.

The opposition's sweeping win gives it the power to challenge Maduro's rule by removing ministers, passing laws without the executive*s support and even convoking an assembly to rewrite Chavez's 1999 constitution.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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