Venezuela’s new constituent assembly has formally declared it will assume the powers of the opposition-led parliament.
The vote has fuelled criticism that socialist President Nicolas Maduro is consolidating a dictatorship in defiance of international outrage.
In practice, the move does little to change the existing situation. The Socialist-dominated Supreme Court has stripped power from the congress and shot down nearly every law it has approved since it was taken over by the opposition in 2016.
But the decision suggests the constituent assembly, elected in July in a vote boycotted by the opposition, is more interested in limiting the opposition’s influence than carrying out its official task of rewriting the nation’s constitution.
Delcy Rodriguez, a Maduro ally and president of the constituent assembly, insisted the move did not imply a dissolution of the congress.
“We are not going to allow more distortions, more deviations aimed at attacking Venezuela’s laws, “ she said. “The constituent assembly arrived to bring order, the constituent assembly came to bring benefits to the people of Venezuela.”
The opposition-led National Assembly rejected the move, branding it a “coup d’etat.”
Maduro pushed for the creation of the constituent assembly on promises it would bring peace to the country after months of violent street protests that have killed more than 125 people.
Critics say the assembly was created to extend the rule of the Socialists, who face anger across the country over chronic food shortages, triple-digit inflation and a severe recession.
Governments around the world have slammed the creation of the constituent assembly, with many accusing Maduro of seeking to ignore the will of Venezuelans who want a change of government.
The United States has slapped sanctions on top Socialist Party officials, accusing them, among other things, of weakening democracy and violating human rights.
Washington has said it will consider sanctions against anyone who participates in the constituent assembly.