In a harbinger of what - for various reasons - may be coming to the US, Venezuela's brand new "all-powerful" constituent assembly is set to pass a bill that will jail anyone who expresses "hate or intolerance" for up to 25 years, a measure which the local opposition - and everyone else - is certain will be used by Maduro's regime to silence and punish all dissent.
"The question is whether this is the peace he's looking for: creating a law that gives him and his obedient supreme court judiciary powers to lock up dissidents for 25 years," Tamara Taraciuk, head Venezuela researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in a Wednesday telephone interview. To be sure, less extreme versions of this proposal have cropped up across the developed world, where while "hate or intolerance" - as defined by some arbitrary but very powerful authority - will result if not in jail time, then certainly in loss of freedom of speech or worse.
As for Venezuela, the "the proposal includes incredibly vague language that would allow them to jail anyone for almost anything," she added, a blueprint for how crackdown against dissent in "developed" countries may materialize. It gets worse: straight out of "1984", Venezuela's assembly is scheduled later on Wednesday to empanel a "Truth Commission" headed by Maduro loyalist and former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, to prosecute those responsible for violent anti-government protests.
Over the past month, in his attempt to copycat Turkey's president Erdogan and seize supreme power, President Nicolas Maduro installed a 545-member assembly stacked with Socialist Party allies earlier this month, who provide him with a greenlight to do virtually anything. The president defends the new legislative superbody as Venezuela's only hope for peace and prosperity.
Separately, local rights group Penal Forum estimated that Maduro's government was holding 676 political prisoners as of Wednesday, a number that could rise once a crackdown against hate crimes - however the ruling regime defines these - becomes law. For now the definition is simple: no disagreement with Maduro:
"Anyone who goes out into the streets to express intolerance and hatred will be captured and will be tried and punished with sentences of 15, 20, 25 years of jail," Maduro recently told the assembly, drawing a standing ovation.
Meanwhile the assembly has wasted no time in usurping power. Just days after firing Venezuela's top prosecutor Luisa Ortega, the assembly on Tuesday ordered that cases of protesters detained this year be held in civilian rather than military courts. The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said in a report on Wednesday that Ortega's dismissal "removes one of the last remaining institutional checks on executive authority."
As for Ortega, she is likely going to prison too: the country's new chief prosecutor, Maduro's former "human rights ombudsman" Tarek Saab, on Wednesday outlined corruption accusations against his predecessor Ortega, her husband and members of her team of prosecutors. She is unlikely to find any support in the current regime: the opposition, in control of the traditional congress, boycotted the election of the assembly, meaning that all candidates for the new body were Maduro allies.