Venezuela's new assembly creates 'truth commission'

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More than 120 people have been killed in protest-related violence in Venezuela since 1 April

Venezuela's controversial constituent assembly has passed a law creating a "truth commission".

The head of the assembly said the law was a "powerful instrument to stifle violence, hatred and intolerance".

More than 120 people have been killed in the violence since anti-government protests began sweeping through the country on 1 April.

The government blames right-wing "terrorists" but the UN suggests dozens were killed by the security forces.

The law was passed unanimously by the constituent assembly, a body convened by President Nicolás Maduro.

Power grab?

The assembly has deeply divided Venezuelans, many of whom see it as a way for the president to expand his power and sideline the opposition-controlled legislative.

It has also been condemned by international leaders and by the Pope, who urged President Maduro not to inaugurate it.

President Maduro said the constituent assembly would promote peace by bringing different sectors of society together to rewrite the constitution.

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Members of the constituent assembly proudly held up pictures of former President Chávez

But since its 545 members were sworn in on Saturday, the political situation has swiftly deteriorated.

While it was ostensibly created to rewrite the constitution, the new body has taken a series of decisions unrelated to the constitution.

One of its first moves was to sack chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who in recent months has become a vocal critic of the government.

It also passed a decree prohibiting the opposition-controlled legislative from taking any action that would interfere with laws passed by the new constituent assembly.

The decisions were taken unanimously, bolstering the opposition's claim that the constituent assembly is made up entirely of government loyalists.

'End to impunity'

The newly created truth commission will be lead by Delcy Rodríguez, who also heads the constituent assembly.

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Is Delcy Rodriguez the most powerful person in Venezuela?

Ms Rodríguez said the commission would investigate "acts of violence carried out with political motives or out of intolerance".

The government has blamed "right-wing terrorists" for the violence at recent protests.

But according to analysis by a UN Human Rights team, the "security forces are allegedly responsible for 46 deaths, while pro-government armed groups (...) are reportedly for another 27 of the deaths" out of 124 under investigation.

The UN team said it was "unclear who the perpetrators in the remaining deaths may be".

Ms Rodríguez said there would be "an end to impunity" with the new truth commission. Opposition leaders have taken this as a thinly veiled warning that there will be a further crackdown on those criticising the government.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court sentenced an opposition mayor, Ramón Muchacho, to 15 months in jail for failing to prevent roads in his neighbourhood being blocked by protesters.

Another opposition mayor, David Smolansky, is due to appear in court later on Wednesday on similar charges.

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