Maduro says country facing armed insurgency, lambastes prosecutor’s office
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says his country is facing an “armed insurgency,” also criticizing the prosecutor’s office for failure to control the opposition-led violent protests across the Latin American country.
During an army event marking the 80th anniversary of Venezuela’s National Guard on Friday, Maduro praised the country’s military and called on troops to remain alert in dealing with the insurgency amid the ongoing political turmoil.
“We have faced and we are facing an armed insurgency. And the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, general in chief, chief admiral, commanding minister, pre-operational strategist, commander of the four components of the national militia, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces must prepare itself in non-traditional combat methods,” the socialist president said.
“If we had had a prosecutor’s office that took action and acted courageously according to justice, all of these guarimberos (violent opposition demonstrators) and criminals would have been captured, punished and imprisoned and we would have had peace a long time ago,” Maduro noted.
The Venezuelan president also pointed the finger of blame at the United States and Colombia for the deadly unrest gripping the country for months.
He made the comments on the same day that Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly held its first session less than a week after it was elected following a vote marred by deadly violence and claims of fraud.
The powerful 554-seat body is capable of dissolving the opposition-led legislature and rewriting the constitution.
The National Electoral Council, considered by the opposition as Maduro’s mouthpiece, declared that more than eight million legitimate voters had cast their ballots, putting the turnout of about 41 percent.
Venezuela’s prosecutor’s office, led by Attorney General Luisa Ortega, stood up against the government in April over a court ruling to strip the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. Ortega said at the time that the move was unconstitutional.
The decision to annul the powers of the opposition-led parliament was later revoked, but the protests have only continued since then.
The Caracas government says the protests are incited by foreign powers to remove Maduro from power and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has claimed the government has recruited criminal gangs to intimidate protesters.
The unrest has claimed the lives of more than 130 people.
Following the new assembly vote, the European Union censured Venezuela for the “excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces,” and called on both sides to refrain from violence.
The United States also imposed sanctions against 13 current and former Venezuelan officials after doing the same to the country’s vice president in February. The US Treasury Department later froze Maduro’s US assets and called him a “dictator” for pushing ahead with the election.
The 54-year-old socialist leader has on several occasions touted the planned rewriting of the constitution as necessary for resolving the widening political crisis in the impoverished but oil-rich country, saying that the reforms would help the nation through the current economic crisis.