There has been new rioting in Venezuela of an extremely disturbing sort:

A mob stormed Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly on Wednesday with the apparent acquiescence of government troops and carried out a startling attack on lawmakers and journalists.

Bloodied lawmakers were treated for broken ribs and head injuries, and journalists said the attackers had stolen their equipment. The episode in Caracas, which coincided with Venezuela’s Independence Day, was a sharp escalation of lawlessness in a country roiled by a failing economy and daily street demonstrations.

“We’re here to defend Venezuela; that’s what we were elected to do,” Armando Armas, an opposition lawmaker wearing a bloodied white shirt, said in a video as two people cleaned what appeared to be head wounds. “Even if it costs us our lives.”…

While National Assembly lawmakers have been assaulted before, the attack on Wednesday was remarkable because the throng of assailants appeared to face no resistance from National Guard forces charged with securing the compound.

It’s still another—and very ominous—chapter in the sad recent history of Venezuela, a country that used to be relatively prosperous and relatively well-functioning—that is, until socialism in the name of Hugo Chavez took charge. It’s been downhill ever since. Chavez is dead, but his successor Maduro lives on.

And this is especially troubling:

The assault came amid an intensifying political fight over Mr. Maduro’s effort to convene a constituent assembly that could render the elected National Assembly powerless…

In recent days, a rift has widened between Mr. Maduro and his attorney general, Luisa Ortega, who sharpened her criticism of the president’s plan to let a constituent assembly of handpicked loyalists write a new Constitution. The effort is widely seen as a ploy by a deeply unpopular leader to consolidate power by disbanding the National Assembly, which is controlled by his opponents. Ms. Ortega has denounced the plan as an affront to the country’s democratic principles.

The Supreme Court, which is loyal to the president, held a hearing on Tuesday that was expected to lead to Ms. Ortega’s removal; she refused to attend.

Enabling Act, anyone?

I would wager that Maduro is well aware of the historical antecedents, and is determined to repeat history (or an approximation of a repeat).

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]

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