At a Tuesday rally in Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed a document allowing a “constituent assembly” to draft a new version of Venezuela’s constitution, acting on a promise he made earlier this month. The assembly, which will consist of 540 members, has the authority to dissolve public powers and convene general elections. On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported that part of the assembly would be elected at the municipal level, while another part would be elected by groups of farmers, students, workers, and indigenous people. At the beginning of May, Maduro said only half the members would be directly elected. Voting for the assembly is scheduled to begin in late July, with regional gubernatorial elections being held on December 10.
During Tuesday’s rally in front of thousands of supporters, Maduro claimed the new constitution would bring peace to Venezuela, which has suffered in recent months from violent, and often deadly, protests. Since April 1, more than 50 people have been killed and hundreds injured during opposition protests against Maduro’s government. In addition to accusing Maduro of carrying out a dictatorial regime, many protestors hold the president responsible for Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis, which has resulted in severe shortages of food and medicine. Although Maduro’s term is not over until 2019, opposition groups have also called for early elections in hopes of removing the president from office. Maduro, meanwhile, has argued that protestors are part of a conspiracy supported by the U.S. to overthrow “21st century socialism.”