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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Second mayor jailed as Maduro addresses new Venezuelan assembly

Elected official in charge of Caracas suburb of El Hatillo has been sent down for fifteen months as repression continues

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, center, with his wife Cilia Flores, left, and constitutional assembly president Delcy Rodriguez wave as they arrive to the national assembly building for a session of the constitutional assembly in Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, center, with his wife Cilia Flores, left, and constitutional assembly president Delcy Rodriguez wave as they arrive to the national assembly building for a session of the constitutional assembly in Caracas, Venezuela

The climate of repression deepened in Venezuela on Thursday as a second opposition mayor was jailed by the Maduro regime. David Smolansky, the opposition mayor of the Caracas suburb of El Hatillo, was given a sentence of 15 months by the country’s supreme court, bringing to 23 the number of mayors targeted by legal action.

“Is this the peace that Maduro is talking about?” asked Gerardo Blyde, the mayor of Baruta, a nearby municipality who is also under investigation.

“None of us are afraid of the persecution. Maybe they’ll go after our deputies [in the national assembly] now." he said.

In other developments on Thursday, the ruling party’s second in command warned potential opposition candidates that they would need to sign certificates of “good conduct” issued by the newly elected constituent assembly, voted in last weekend, which is loyal to Maduro.

Maduro himself addressed members of the new assembly later in the day. "As head of state I subordinate myself to the powers of this constituent assembly," he told the body.

"I come to recognise its plenipotentiary powers, sovereign, original and magnificent," he said.

"This assembly had a violent birth," Maduro continued. He drew a standing ovation when he promised that violent anti-government protesters would be jailed.

The body has usurped the powers of the national assembly, and is tasked with rewriting the south American country’s constitution. The assembly has already sacked the attorney general who opposed its creation as unconstitutional.

The United States and major Latin American nations have rejected the newly constituted assembly as an illegitimate body aimed at dismantling democratic rule in Venezuela.

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Sanctions were imposed by America on Maduro and on several members of the new assembly, which was elected last month amid allegations of fraud, deadly protests and an opposition boycott.

Venezuela has lodged protests with 11 embassies over the international condemnation, and railed against the United States for not respecting “any basic principle of international law.”

Smolansky's sentencing came just days after the supreme court sentenced the mayor of the Caracas muncipality of Chacao, Ramon Muchacho, also for 15 months in prison, for failing to prevent street protest in his district.

Both Smolansky and Muchacho have also been barred from holding public office.

In a video posted online, Smolanksy called for protests against his jailing “in all the streets” of his municipality, but there was little sign of dissent on the streets of Chacao.

Protests have lost steam in the past week as security forces have stepped up repression and demonstrators have grown discouraged by the opposition's failure to bring about change.

However, on Thursday a group calling itself The Binary Guardians claimed responsibility for a massive cyberattack that cut mobile telephone service to seven million users.

"These terrorist actions which affected the Movilnet's GSM platform on Wednesday left without communication seven of the state operator's 13 million users," science and technology minister Hugbel Roa said.