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Luisa Ortega Diaz

Venezuela's constitutional assembly ousted its chief prosecutor

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Updated August 05, 2017 03:06 PM EDT

The newly-installed constitutional assembly led by President Nicolas Maduro has ousted Venezuela's chief prosecutor on Saturday, a move that signals that the embattled government is making swift moves to consolidate power.

Hails of "traitor" and "justice has arrived" erupted from the 545 pro-government delegates during the unanimous vote to remove the top law enforcement official, Luisa Ortega, from her post. The assembly replaced her with a staunch government supporter.

The delegates said they were acting in response to a ruling by the government-attacked Supreme Court, which was separately considering a request to sanction Ortega.

Speaking to journalists after her removal, Ortega said dozens of national guardsmen in riot gear barred her from entering her office, alleging that authorities wanted to get their hands on sensitive information implicating high-level officials in dirty dealings.

"Do you know what they want to achieve with this? They want to hide the corruption and violation of human rights taking place in Venezuela that I will continue to denounce," Ortega said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro plans to seat a new controversial constituent assembly in an effort to rewrite the country's constitution despite continued opposition protests.

The new legislative body's constitution would nullify the other branches of government, leading opposition leaders to call on citizens to protest in the streets in objection. Maduro is expected to seat the 545-member body at the legislative palace in the capital of Caracas on Friday, just yards from the opposition-led National Assembly. He plans to attend the assembly's opening session and promised to use the assembly itself to attack his political opponents.

"The only way they'll get us out of here is by killing us," National Assembly first vice president Freddy Guevara told the Associated Press. "They will never have a seat that the people of Venezuela gave us."

Maduro's assembly was elected on Sunday, despite opposition claims that the election itself was rigged in favor of Maduro supporters, resulting in a boycott. The U.S. State Department condemned the assembly on Thursday, claiming the rigged election only served to empower "the Maduro dictatorship." Several U.S. lawmakers joined in the condemnation, including Sen. Marco Rubio who issued a message of support to the Venezuelan people in Spanish.

"At a time of deep divisions in our own politics, both the left and the right here in the United States support the people of Venezuela and condemn the Maduro government," said Rubio. "Even those who sympathized and defended the late Hugo Chavez, condemn the direction Nicolas Maduro has taken your country."

The senator added that Venezuelans are "only a free and fair election away from a better future."

Sen. Bob Menendez, senior member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, claimed a "sham election" was used to elect the pro-Maduro assembly.

"Nicolas Maduro's decision to move forward with a sham election to create a constituent assembly and shred his country's constitution offers yet another disturbing example of how dangerously unfit this man is to lead country," said Menendez in a statement released on Monday.

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Venezuela's legislative palace has been the scene of violent protests in recent weeks. Three months of bloody protests and a beleaguered economy have taken a serious toll on Venezuelans. Conditions are expected to worsen should Maduro and his supporters be successful in rewriting the constitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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