Venezuela's socialist leader has ordered the writing of a new constitution, further angering opponents whose intensifying campaign to oust him has brought hundreds of thousands into the streets. President Nicolas Maduro was vague in a televised speech Monday evening about how members would be chosen for a citizen assembly to produce a new charter. He hinted some would be selected by voters, but many observers expect the government to give itself the power to pick a majority of delegates to the convention, the AP reports. Maduro said a new constitution is needed to restore peace and stop the opposition from trying to carry out a coup. "This will be a citizens assembly made up of workers," he said.
Opposition leaders cried foul, calling the planned constitutional assembly a ploy to give Maduro an excuse to put off regional elections scheduled for this year and a presidential election that was to be held in 2018. Polling has suggested the socialists would lose both those elections badly amid widespread anger over Venezuela's economic woes of triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and other goods. The president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Julio Borges, called a constitutional assembly a "giant fraud" designed to keep Maduro and his allies in power. He urged the military to prevent the "coup" by Maduro. (A day earlier, Maduro promised to raise the minimum wage 60%.)