Venezuela Socialists seek to curtail opposition advantage

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s ruling Socialists inaugurated a grassroots assembly yesterday in the same building as the national legislature in a further effort to minimize impact of an opposition election win that has shaken the government.

In the election this month, the Democratic Unity coalition won control of the National Assembly for the first time in 16 years, with a two-thirds majority giving it wide powers to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s administration. But Maduro said he will refuse to sign the opposition’s first priority when the new legislature starts on Jan. 5: an amnesty law for jailed activists.

The outgoing Socialist-controlled National Assembly is also pushing new appointments to the Supreme Court where any conflict of powers will play out.

Adding to the mood of showdown, the government yesterday set up a new National Communal Parliament – to supervise the nation’s patchwork of Socialist communities set up by late leader Hugo Chavez – in the same premises as the National Assembly.

Though seemingly more symbolic than a real undermining of the legislature’s powers, the move nevertheless underlined the government’s tough response to the opposition’s recent election win that was largely a punishment vote against Maduro.

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