Venezuela's attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz distanced herself further from President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government on Thursday by filing a legal challenge to his call for a new constitution.
Diaz filed an appeal to nullify the constituent assembly, scheduled to convene later this summer to rewrite the constitution, as unconstitutional and unrepresentative of Venezuelans. At a news conference, she called the presidential decree illegal "because it is the sovereign people who have the power" to demand a revision.
The prosecutor, close to the late President Hugo Chavez throughout his administration, said she considers "Chavismo as a philosophy of life" and that his legacy is "being destroyed."
Maduro on Thursday spoke of threats to his planned constituent assembly and called for a "military-civic union to defeat in the street the conspiracy, the plot and the coup that can be expected."
More than two months of almost-daily street protests, primarily against the socialist government, have led to at least 65 deaths among pro-government and opposition demonstrators, bystanders and security forces. The president has grown increasingly unpopular, as the country suffers crippling shortages of basic goods, but he retains control of the military.
Maduro's political rivals cheered Ortega's move. "I applaud the fact that the prosecutor is acting constitutionally," opposition leader Henrique Capriles said, according to the AFP news agency.
Freddy Guevara, vice president of the opposition-led National Assembly, wrote on Twitter urging "hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans" to show their support for Ortega's appeal.
Constitutional lawyer Juan Manuel Raffalli, asked by VOA whether Ortega might lose her job over her stance, said removing the attorney general "must be done by the National Assembly and also with the approval of the Supreme Court."
But Raffalli noted that a "spurious" constitutional assembly could "dictate any act that they want and can try to eliminate the assembly, the prosecutor and everyone."