Controversial new Venezuelan assembly inaugurated in Caracas

"Well, the situation here is that now we have two parliaments: one is dominated by the opposition, and another by Nicolas Maduro".

Already more than 125 people have been killed in four months of protests against Maduro's government which the opposition sees as increasingly authoritarian and repressive.

Members of the Constituent Assembly attend its installation at the National Congress in Caracas on August 4, 2017.

It called in a statement on "all political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the existing constitution".

Ignacio J. Alvarez is Ortega's representative to the proceedings in Washington.

"We thank the people of Venezuela and the global community for their concern and solidarity".

The new legislative body has no checks on its powers, and critics say the decision to remove Ortega is an ominous sign of a swerve by Maduro into full-blown dictatorship. "The violent fascists. justice is coming for you".

The opposition has vowed to maintain street protests against the assembly, despite being increasingly sidelined and despondent.

Human rights ombudsman Tarek William Saab, a Maduro supporter, was named as her replacement. It cited Smartmatic's accusation, which President Nicolas Maduro and his government's elections council have denied.

The assembly selected a crony of leftist President Nicholas Maduro as its leader.

The voting was to elect the 545-seat assembly which is deputied to revise the country's constitution.

The opposition boycotted the vote, which was condemned by countries around the world as an affront to democracy.

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Assembly delegates marched to the neo-classical legislative palace accompanied by hundreds of red-shirted government supporters.

"This shouldn't surprise anybody", assembly delegate Diosdado Cabello, a key leader of the ruling socialist party, said Saturday.

Brazil said on Friday it was recommending that Venezuela be suspended from the trade bloc Mercosur until it returned to democracy. "It is not possible to inflict such torture on the people", Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said after the meeting.

The ex-foreign minister was appointed to lead the political body on Friday. There's speculation they will evict Venezuela for violating the group's democratic norms.

The United States, the European Union and major Latin American nations including Mexico, Argentina and Chile have all rejected the assembly.

After being hit with US sanctions and called a dictator by US President Donald Trump, Maduro said defiantly that he was standing up to what he called imperialism. "We will not stop until we achieve it", he said.

The Vatican was the latest of dozens of states to call for a suspension of the assembly inauguration, which "create (s) a climate of tension and conflict" in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

McMaster cites the historical resentment in Latin America over the long history of US military interventions in the region.

Pope Francis invited the faithful worldwide to pray for the country and its people.

Just hours ahead of the assembly's inaugural session, Venezuela's intelligence service unexpectedly transferred a high-profile opposition figure, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, from jail back to house arrest, his family said.

Maduro's security forces have stepped up pressure on dissenters.

There were no indications Friday that Lopez might also be released.

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