Opposition leader freed from Venezuela jail and placed under house arrest

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Authorities said the men were mercenaries working for a USA -backed opposition to bring down almost two decades of Socialism in oil-rich Venezuela, raising the specter of a further government crackdown on dissent in coming days. It is both deterring and disheartening when democratic countries and human rights institutions merely bemoan Venezuela's critical situation.

One of Maduro's biggest opponents, Attorney General Luisa Ortega, announced late Wednesday she opened an investigation into "scandalous" electoral fraud, alleging the election council manipulated turnout figures on the vote Sunday.

Former Venezuelan Foreign Minister and ANC President Delcy Rodriguez said the commission would be installed "for the sake of peace in our homeland", while speaking at the ANC's first session which was attended by more than 500 constituents.

The new Constituent Assembly supersedes Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly. "This is a dictatorship, what we are living in Venezuela".

Of the 32 cabinet posts in the Maduro government, 12 are held by military men, 10 of them active-duty and two retired.

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The reference to Oderbrecht, a Brazilian construction company, was in regard to alleged bribes paid to government officials in exchange for preferential contracts. He later reportedly sought exile after a military tribunal ordered his arrest, appearing in an interview on CNN en Espanol to draw attention to dissatisfaction within the ranks over Venezuela's demise.

Ortega, a longtime loyalist who broke with the socialist government in April, refused to recognize the decision and vowed to continue defending the rights of Venezuelans from Maduro's "coup" against the constitution "with my last breath".

"We shouldn't think the government is winning", said Julio Borges, president of the opposition-controlled congress, making an emotional plea for Maduro's opponents to remain on the streets and capitalize on the government's increasing worldwide isolation.

It remains to be seen whether Maduro will have Ortega arrested and on what charges.

The results have come under mounting scrutiny after the global company that provided the electronic voting machines said that "without any doubt" the official turnout had been tampered with — a charge dismissed by Maduro and the National Electoral Council.

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"Each step by the Constituent Assembly is a step towards the precipice by this government", the leader of the opposition parliament, Julio Borges, told a news conference in Caracas on Sunday.

The opposition, which controls the legislature, has become sidelined.

Officials from the four Mercosur founding countries - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - agreed to the measure based on a founding protocol that allows for punitive measures and permanent suspension against countries that violate democratic principles.

"The worldwide community should not be wrong about Venezuela".

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