Dear Mr. Pritchard (Observer readers’ editor)
First of all, article’s headline is false as even the article itself reveals. Venezuela’s constituent assembly (ANC), not President Maduro, took over various National Assembly functions.
Nowhere does the article inform readers that the ANC was elected by Venezuelan voters. The opposition refused to field candidates for the ANC election, urged it supporters to boycott the vote, and resorted to violence, in particular in opposition strongholds, to prevent people from voting.
Nowhere does the article inform readers that the Venezuelan constitution, which was ratified by voters in a referendum in 1999, allows for the election of an ANC.
Articles 347, 348, 349 of the Venezuelan constitution are shown below this note. It is clear that the ANC has broad powers under the constitution above other elected bodies, including the president.
The dispute over the constitutionality of the ANC elections that President Maduro ordered hinges over whether or not voters had to approve the ANC election beforehand in a referendum as they did in 1999.
It is obvious from art. 347 that the ANC would have to be directly elected by Venezuelan voters – as it was.
It is obvious from art. 348 that the president has the authority to initiate the process of convening an ANC. It is not clear that an initiating referendum is required or even a referendum on changes it makes to the constitution.
In 1999, Venezuela was in the process of replacing a constitution that made no provision at all for an ANC. Maduro has, despite vagueness of the 1999 constitution on the matter, committed to holding a referendum on any changes the ANC proposes to the constitution.
The only thing your article tells readers is that the opposition and its staunch supporters in the US government and other right wing governments in the region, have declared the ANC illegitimate. The notion that foreign governments have any right at all to impose an interpretation of the constitution on Venezuela is outrageous. Many readers would see that if you provided more information.
I realize a single article can’t get into every bit of nuance, but this article was totally one-sided and misleading.
Relevant articles of the Venezuelan Constitution
Article 347: The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the purpose of transforming the State, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new Constitution.
Article 348: The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly, by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.
Article 349: The President of the Republic shall not have the power to object to the new Constitution.
The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way.
For purposes of the promulgation of the new Constitution, the same shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Venezuela or in the Gazette of the Constituent Assembly.