Venezuela’s newly installed constituent Assembly has given itself authority that makes it superior to all other governmental institutions, including the Opposition-controlled Congress, AP reported on Wednesday. The decree giving the body its powers was unanimously approved, said the ruling socialist party’s leader, Delcy Rodriguez.

Foreign ministers from 17 Western Hemisphere nations, however, refused to recognise the new “all-powerful body”, AP reported.

The Assembly’s new powers disallow the Opposition-ruled Congress from taking any action that would overrule the laws passed by the body. “We are not threatening anyone,” said Aristobulo Isturiz, the constitutional Assembly’s first vice president. “We are looking for ways to coexist.”

President Nicolas Maduro (pictured above), who claimed victory after the highly controversial election, had said a new Constitution would help find a solution to the political standoff in the country. The Opposition and his critics, however, view it as a way to wield more authoritative power over the administration.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has condemned the use of extensive force and detention of anti-government protestors. In a statement, the United Nations Human Rights body said an investigation into the volatile situation revealed that security forces are responsible for at least 46 protest-related deaths.

“The responsibility for the human rights violations we are recording lies at the highest levels of government,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

Controversial referendum

On August 2, Smartmatic, the company in charge of conducting the voting for Venezuela’s July 30 referendum, had claimed that the turnout for the referendum on a new Constituent Assembly was fixed. The company said there was a discrepancy of 10 crore votes between the turnout figures announced by the Maduro government and those recorded by the company’s electronic voting systems.

Venezuela Opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were taken from their homes by intelligence agents on August 1.