Venezuela’s ruling Socialists seize congress, defiant opposition re-elects Guaido

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Venezuela Flag

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Venezuela’s socialist government installed a new head of Congress yesterday after armed troops blocked opposition legislators from entering parliament, in a move condemned by dozens of nations as an assault on democracy.

Troops with riot shields blocked opposition leader Juan Guaido from entering parliament for what was expected to be his re-election as head of Congress, at one point pulling him off the compound’s iron railings after he tried to push past security forces.

The blockade allowed the ruling Socialist Party to hand the post to legislator Luis Parra, who was recently expelled by an opposition party over corruption allegations. (See earlier report below)

Lawmaker Luis Parra speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at Venezuela’s National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

The gambit by the government of President Nicolas Maduro was slammed by the United States, the European Union and a dozen Latin American nations.

Opposition legislators quickly re-elected Guaido – who is recognized by dozens of nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader – in a session at the headquarters of a pro-opposition newspaper.

But the move may further weaken the opposition’s already flagging campaign to oust Maduro, and creates two competing leaders of parliament in a nation caught in a political standoff and suffering a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

“Today the dictatorship has committed another blunder,” Guaido said after taking the oath of office at the offices of El Nacional newspaper. “Today we once again soundly defeated the plans of the dictatorship.” The opposition’s tally showed 100 of parliament’s 167 legislators voted in his favor.

Guaido last year led a groundswell movement to push Maduro from power, denouncing his 2018 re-election as a fraud and assuming a parallel presidency that quickly won the recognition of most Western and Latin American nations.

But Maduro has clung to power, thanks to continued support from the military and the backing of China, Cuba and Russia. He has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday night (January 5, 2020) congratulated Guaido for winning a second term.

“Venezuela’s political parties came together in a resounding display of unity to support Juan Guaido’s re-election,” Pompeo said in a statement. “No regime thugs, no jail cells, and no bribery or intimidation can subvert the will of the Venezuelan people.”

Opposition legislators on Sunday spent much of the morning attempting to get past checkpoints in downtown Caracas at which police and troops stalled their advance and blocked a group of them from entering the historic Congress building.

Socialist Party legislators, in the absence of Guaido and other legislators, took control of the session and nominated Parra as the new Congress chief. Following a melee on the floor of parliament, an impromptu vote was held through a show of hands but without counting each individual vote, as required by its regulations, according to a Reuters witness.

Venezuela’s state television broadcast an improvised swearing-in ceremony for Parra, who was expelled last year from opposition party First Justice for allegedly helping burnish the reputation of a businessman associated with Maduro’s government.

Parra denies the charges. Since his expulsion, he has been harshly critical of Guaido and has described himself and other legislators as being in “rebellion.”

“We announced this morning before entering the legislative palace that the rebellion by the deputies … would be clearly expressed,” Parra said on Sunday in comments on state television.

Maduro, who donned a baseball uniform to inaugurate a new stadium on Sunday evening, said Congress had chosen new leadership out of frustration with Guaido.

“Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams should explain to Donald Trump why they lost the leadership of the National Assembly, one more failure by the gringos in Venezuela,” Maduro said, referring to the Secretary of State and the U.S. special representative for Venezuela.

The events were also condemned by the Lima Group, an organization of Latin American nations that seeks political change in Venezuela. Argentina, which recently elected a leftist government, also condemned the day’s events.

EARLIER REPORT:

Venezuela’s Guaido loses control of congress, opposition denounces coup

By Staff Editor –  January 5, 2020

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Venezuela’s parliament today swore in legislator Luis Parra as its new leader after government security forces blocked opposition leader Juan Guaido from entering parliament, in what Guaido’s allies called a “parliamentary coup.”

Opposition leaders had expected to re-elect Guaido, recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, to a second term as chief of the legislature to continue pushing for the ouster of unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.         

Following a confused scuffle on the floor of parliament today, state television announced that the new parliament leader was Parra – a legislator expelled last month from an opposition party following corruption accusations that he denies.

“Luis Parra… has been sworn in during this session today,” said a state television announcer, following an improvised swearing-in ceremony amid clamouring and what appeared to be protests by opposition legislators.

Opposition leaders said the incident showed that Maduro has again flouted basic democratic principles by using intimidation and force to control an institution that the Socialist Party lost control of in a landslide 2015 election.

One video distributed by Guaido’s press team shows him attempting to scale a fence outside parliament and being pushed back by security forces. He declared the new congress illegal and said he will continue holding sessions elsewhere.

But the gambit will help Maduro to sideline Guaido, who last year became an icon of hope for millions of Venezuelans seeking an end to the country’s hyperinflationary crisis that has fueled an exodus of some 5 million citizens.

Guaido’s claim to the interim presidency rested on his position as president of the opposition-held National Assembly. He argued that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was fraudulent, meaning the presidency was vacant and that the constitution dictated the head of parliament should take charge temporarily.

The United States, through its embassy to Venezuela which has been located in Bogota since the two countries cut off diplomatic relations in 2019, said today’s events in the National Assembly were “completely against the will of the people and the laws governing the process.”

Since being expelled from the Justice First opposition party, Parra has been harshly critical of Guaido’s leadership. He and eight other legislators who were also ensnared in the corruption scandal have described themselves as being in “rebellion.”

Parra told state television that the lawmakers who were present in the chamber opened the session without Guaido because he had not arrived.

“We announced this morning before entering the legislative palace that the rebellion of the deputies … would be clearly expressed,” Parra said.

Guaido in December vowed to investigate alleged wrongdoing lawmakers including Parra for unduly advocating for a businessman linked to Maduro’s government.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On January 7, 2020 at 3:43 am

    The struggle for power continues in Venezuela
    The army loyal to Mad-Uro !
    Dictatorship in principle/practice.
    The longer this “stand-off” continues
    the lesser the chances of Mad-Uro being
    replaced. Stepping down not an option.
    Only if the military steps aside in the
    political conflict will Mad-Uro be replaced.
    Mad-Uro was appointed/annointed by Hugo
    Chavez …the chosen one. Only a coup from
    within the socialist regime will replace Mad-uro

    It must come from within influenced by
    outside forces.

    My take

    Kamtan
    PS maybe a USA drone used to “obliterate”
    dictator…doubt it !

  • Trevor  On January 8, 2020 at 8:00 am

    50,000+ Venezuelans in GT and counting…Guyanese here, especially the Indo-Guyanese are getting vex at the situation in Venezuela because it’s creating lots of refugees.

    I believe that one has to speak some Spanish to get employed in certain sectors in GT.

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