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New Venezuela assembly declares itself superior government branch

CARACAS — Venezuela’s new constitutional assembly took over the halls of the endangered, opposition-controlled congress on Tuesday, issuing a decree declaring itself superior to all other branches of government and prominently displaying images of the late President Hugo Chavez.

The order bars antigovernment lawmakers in congress from taking any action that would interfere with the laws passed by the newly installed assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, the super-body’s leader, declared to unanimous approval.

‘‘We are not threatening anyone,’’ said Aristobulo Isturiz, the constitutional assembly’s first vice president. ‘‘We are looking for ways to coexist.’’

Embattled President Nicolas Maduro convoked the constitutional assembly in what he contends is an attempt to resolve the nation’s political standoff, but opposition leaders insist it is a power grab. Since its installation on Friday, the assembly has already ousted the nation’s outspoken chief prosecutor, established a ‘‘truth commission’’ expected to target Maduro’s foes, and passed decrees pledging ‘‘support and solidarity’’ with the unpopular president.

Opposition lawmakers said they were barred from entering the gold-domed legislative palace after security forces led by Rodriguez broke into congress late Monday.


‘‘This government invades the spaces that it is not capable of legitimately winning,’’ Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition lawmaker, wrote on Twitter of the assembly’s takeover of the chamber the opposition has controlled since winning 2015 elections.

Earlier Tuesday, Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court sentenced a Caracas-area mayor at the center of recent protests to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up during antigovernment demonstrations.

Ramon Muchacho is the fourth opposition mayor whose arrest the high court has sought in two weeks. The court also ordered an investigation into another prominent Caracas-area mayor, David Smolansky, for the same alleged crimes.

The constitutional assembly’s meeting Tuesday came amid mounting criticism from foreign governments that have refused to recognize the new super-body.


More than a dozen Latin American leaders were gathering in Peru to discuss how to force Maduro to back down.

In response, Maduro convened a meeting of foreign ministers from the Bolivarian Alliance, a leftist coalition of 11 Latin American nations.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told representatives from nations including Cuba and Bolivia Tuesday that longstanding US aggressions against his troubled South American nation have ‘‘entered a much stronger phase.’’

Opposition lawmakers have vowed to hold onto their only government foothold — the country’s single-chamber congress — despite threats from the constitutional assembly to strip them of any authority and lock up key leaders.