What is President Nicolás Maduro proposing? He wants to call to order an assembly that will rewrite the constitution. Technically, he has the power to do this — it’s what President Hugo Chávez did in 1999. However, Chávez kicked off the process with a referendum on whether the constitution needed a reboot. Once he won that vote, he held a second election for the assembly. Maduro wants to do something similar, but he’s skipped the first step.

How will the new assembly work? There will be 545 delegates to the assembly. About two-thirds (364) will be chosen according to geography and 181 candidates will be selected by various constituencies and social groups. None of the candidates are from the country’s opposition, which is boycotting the election.

What will the constitution say? Few specifics have been discussed. It’s not clear what will be changed or rewritten. The fear, though, is that allies of Maduro will use the opportunity to target opposition leaders, silence dissent and install an ever more autocratic regime with fewer (or no) checks and balances.

What will happen next? It’s impossible to predict, but there are a couple of things we can expect. International groups have spoken out strongly against Maduro. And the United States has warned that if Maduro goes forward with this vote, it will impose heavy sanctions. If they’re severe enough, they could deal a death blow to the country’s economy, since the U.S. buys nearly half of Venezuela’s oil. The opposition will likely continue to rally support on the streets.

Washington Post