WSJ — CARACAS—Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro on Monday signed an order to convene a special assembly to redraft the country’s constitution, the latest in a string of efforts to retain power in the face of mounting protests and civil unrest.
Mr. Maduro called for a vote—though it remained unclear among whom—to elect a so-called constituent assembly, which would in theory become the nation’s highest authority.
The opposition responded by pledging to intensify antigovernment demonstrations. They called on protesters to block roads beginning as early as 6 a.m. Tuesday in rejection of what they said was the leftist leader’s latest attempt to violate democratic order and avoid elections that polls show his ruling Socialist Party would overwhelmingly lose.
“Don’t let yourselves be fooled. This is a fraud, a coup d’état,” said Julio Borges, who leads the country’s congress, the National Assembly.
Mr. Maduro fired back by saying, “I am no Mussolini.”
“We need to transform the state, especially that rotten National Assembly over there,” Mr. Maduro told red-clad supporters at a May Day rally in downtown Caracas, referring to the country’s congress.
Mr. Maduro said a constituent assembly would ease Venezuela’s crippling economic crisis, guarantee peace and beat back what he alleges are efforts to destabilize his administration, without explaining in detail how. “I don’t want a civil war,” he added.
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