National Assembly opposition deputies Luis Florido and  Manuel Avendaño were detained upon his arrival in Managua, Nicaragua today, where he had traveled in order to speak against a crackdown on the country’s legislature by President Daniel Ortega.

In a situation eerily reminiscent of the institutional crisis affecting Venezuela, Nicaragua’s Supreme Court dismissed 28 opposition deputies from the national legislature this week for opposing Ortega.

Florido said that they were “kidnapped as soon as the plane landed” by Nicaraguan authorities. The two men were immediately placed in separate jail cells where they remained for over four ours. The authorities took their cellphones and passports, leaving the two disconnected until they were released. The two were then immediately deported back to Venezuela.

Later in the day, deputy Williams Davila – who had traveled to Nicaragua for the same purpose – was also detained upon arrival in Managua. He was subsequently deported, and arrived back in Venezuela in the late afternoon.

Nicaragua is one of Venezuela’s closest allies. Like Maduro, President Ortega has faced widespread criticism from democracy activists over his autocratic tendencies. Most recently, Ortega was accused of nepotism after announcing that his running-mate for presidential elections scheduled for later this year would be his wife, Rosario Murillo.

Jaua: Const. Rights Can Only Be Invoked Against “Oligarchy”

Speaking at an event last night to commemorate the 1999 Constituent Assembly (which drafted Venezuela’s Bolivarian Constitution), National Assembly deputy Elias Jaua explained that rights and duties set out in the constitution can only be used against “oligarchical” governments.

In particular, Jaua argued that Article 72 and Article 350 (which spell out the recall referendum and the duty to rebel against tyrannical governments, respectively) cannot be invoked against Maduro. Jaua explained:

This constitution gave political power back to the people. [The people are] the origin of power, sovereign power. And [the constitution] gave them tools to preserve that power. I want to say something here today: the tools that are that so that the people don’t lose sovereignty as are the [recall] referendum in its different forms or the right to rebel in [article] 350 were thought about (…) they were thought about to defend the power of the people before the oligarchy. The recall is to recall oligarchical governments, not popular, democratic governments like the one you [Maduro] have. Article 350 is there to rebel against the oligarchy, as we did on April 13.

Jaua also said that “Nicolas Maduro expresses the people’s power”, and that his government was the only alternative for Venezuelans.

MERCOSUR Meets Without Venezuela

MERCOSUR members met today in Motevideo, Paraguay in order to discuss Venezuela’s presidency of the organization. Venezuela took over the role last Saturday, and according to MERCOSUR’s own rules should hold the presidency for six months. However, some of the organization’s other members are against Venezuela holding the title given the Maduro administration’s continued human rights abuses.

Venezuela was invited to today’s meeting, but her delegation refused to attend.

Paraguayan Foreign Affairs Minister Eladio Loizaga announced today’s meeting last night, saying:

We’re going to talk about how to face these next six months. Maybe we can start reviewing the Protocol of Adherence for Venezuela so that we can correct this issue around the presidency, and that way calmly continue with the alphabetical order so that Argentina can take on the presidency.

The meeting ended without consensus on how to resolve the issue.

Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have each expressed the rejection of having Venezuela hold the MERCOSUR presidency. Uruguay – historically a relatively close ally of Venezuela – appears to support Venezuela on this matter.

Cabello: National Assembly is in its Last Days

National Assembly deputy and PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello said today that the National Assembly had “few days left”, suggesting that some kind of decisive action against the legislature from the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) was coming.

Cabello said:

Very shortly, the people will recover [the National Assembly] in order to govern alongside the revolution…

Cabello also warned of armed conflict if the opposition tried to take power in Venezuela with force, saying:

If they [the opposition] dare to pick up a weapon and try to attack the homeland, they will find us on the streets with a rifle in hand.

Speaking on the possibility of non-chavista individuals working in government, Cabello said that the national government was double-checking to make sure that none were employed by the state. Cabello explained:

We’ve been reviewing the lists… of all of the ministers and the branches of the state, because – shit! – we can’t have a revolution with escualidos [a derogatory term for opposition supporter] heading the State’s institutions. A revolution happens with revolutionaries…

Finally, Cabello reiterated his oft-repeated statement as of late: that the recall referendum will not happen at all. He said:

We chavistas will do whatever we have to do to make sure that the recall doesn’t happen this year nor the next.

Pew Research: Venezuela 3rd in US Asylum Requests

New figures from Pew Research show that Venezuela ranks third behind China and Mexico for asylum requests in the United States. Between October 2015 and June 2016, 10,221 Venezuelans requested asylum in the US, up 168% from 3,810 during the previous year.

During the same period, there were 11,826 asylum requests from Chinese citizens and 10,749 from Mexican citizens.

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