[JURIST] Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro [Reuters profile] announced on Sunday that a controversial election for a new national assembly will go forth as planned next weekend. The new Constituent Assembly will have the power [Reuters report] to rewrite the nation's constitution which was adopted in 1999. Opponents to the move, including the European Union [official website] and other Latin American countries, are calling for a boycott of the vote. Many have accused the efforts for a constitutional rewrite to be undemocratic and a way to suppress the months of anti-government protests against Maduro's presidency. Maduro states [Miami Herald report] that the new assembly, which would elect 527 members, is the only solution to bring an end to the anti-government protests that have brought significant violence to the country. Since political unrest erupted four months ago, over 100 people have died and hundreds have been injured. Maduro has also threatened to imprison [VOA report] the Supreme Court judges that were sworn in on Friday by the opposition party. The state intelligence service arrested one of the appointees on Saturday.
Venezuela has faced significant political unrest since the opposition gained control of the National Assembly in December 2015. Earlier this week Venezuela's opposition party made a call [JURIST report] for a 48-hour general strike to be held next Wednesday and Thursday in response to the scheduled election. A non-binding referendum vote [JURIST report] was held in Venezuela earlier this month in regards to the proposed new constitution which showed that 98 percent of the voters rejected the new constitution. The vote was boycotted by many government supporters. In May the US Department of the Treasury announced sanctions [JURIST report] against Venezuelan Supreme Court justices for usurping democracy. In October the National Assembly voted to open criminal impeachment [JURIST report] proceedings against Maduro, alleging that he manipulated the constitution to remain in power. That same month the Assembly also declared [JURIST report] that there was a breakdown of constitutional order and that the government had staged a coup by blocking an attempt to remove Maduro from power. Instability peaked on March 30 when the Supreme Court of Venezuela dissolved [JURIST report] the opposition-controlled National Assembly and assumed all legislative powers.