Venezuela President Maduro hikes wages, distributes social housing

Venezuela's Maduro hikes minimum wage amid rising protests

After hundreds of thousands took to the streets again to call for his removal, President Nicolás Maduro announced that he was calling for a citizens assembly and a new constitution. Maduro said it would be a special chapter in the country's history, a move to defeat the "facist coup" and to promote peace and stability in the country.

The decree was needed to "block the fascist coup" he said threatened the country, repeating terms portraying his Socialist government as the victim of a US-led capitalist conspiracy.

They said it was another attempt to sideline the current opposition-led National Assembly and potentially avoid elections amid a bruising recession and protests that have led to 29 deaths in the last month.

The lawmaker said at a press conference that the constitutional assembly “is a scam to deceive the Venezuelan people” with a mechanism that “aggravates” the coup detat being staged by the government and destroys the Constitution, democracy and the electoral process.

Venezuela is in the grip of more than a month of near-daily protests against Maduro marked by violence that has killed almost 30 people.

According to the constitution, the constituent assembly would be comprised of 500 members, directly elected by Venezuelans.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters A student holding a sign that reads, "Maduro, you pulled the trigger that took to Juan Pablo", takes part in a tribute to Juan Pablo Pernalete, who died after being hit by a tear gas shot during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela April 27, 2017.

"(We need to) create a new judicial order and to write a new constitution", Maduro told supporters.

Former President Chavez did the same thing in 1999.

They have their own demands: the designation of an impartial electoral board, early presidential elections, an immediate date for overdue regional elections, government authorization to accept humanitarian aid shipments of food and medicine, respect for the autonomy of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the release of all political prisoners and the disarmament of pro-government groups known as colectivos. He called for a series of street actions, including a symbolic pot-banging protest Monday night and a major demonstration Wednesday.

Denying claims of division within its ranks, the Democratic Unity alliance also said in an open letter to Francis on Sunday: "The only dialogue acceptable in Venezuela today is the dialogue of voting, which is the only way to overcome the crisis and re-establish Venezuela's kidnapped democracy".

The regime has met these protests with a show of force and vows to govern "forever".

Maduro has rejected opposition calls for general elections before his term ends late next year.

On Monday, anti-Maduro protesters tried to march on government buildings in downtown Caracas, but police blocked their path, as authorities have done more than a dozen times the past four weeks.

Some, wearing motorbike helmets, swimming goggles or bandanas over their mouths, threw stones and petrol bombs at the security line, with a protester yelling, "No one turn back!" But, privately, opposition leaders are not holding their breath.

Last week, amid waning support in the Organization of American States, Venezuela said it would begin withdrawing from the influential body. "If not, there are problems", a 34 year-old employee with a state aluminium company, just off a bus after an all-night journey from southern Ciudad Bolivar, told a journalist until a supervisor cut off the conversation.

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