Venezuelans gained little clarity today on the confusion that resulted from yesterday’s events at the National Assembly, which saw two men lay claim to the title of president of the legislature.
Luis Parra claimed the position early in the afternoon at the National Assembly building, backed almost entirely by deputies from the ruling PSUV party. While Parra was sworn in, chaos erupted outside as soldiers and police officers prevented opposition leader Juan Guaido and scores of others opposition deputies from entering the building. At least 35 media outlets were also prevented from entering the building to report on the events there.
Hours later, Guaido led a group of deputies to the offices of El Nacional, located in western Caracas, where they held their session. There, the 100 deputies present voted to re-elect Guaido as president of the National Assembly for the 2020 period.
The events left the country with two men claiming to be the leaders of parliament, a claim both continued to make today.
Parra, Renegade Opposition Deputy, Backed by Maduro
Speaking at a baseball game last night, Maduro said that he recognized Parra as the legitimate head of the National Assembly. Maduro said:
Today, the National Assembly took a decision and there’s a new executive committee…
Maduro claimed that he had been hearing “since November” that the National Assembly would “kick out” Guaido from the presidency, and that Parra’s election was a result of a “rebellion by the deputies” against the opposition leadership.
Maduro’s comments represent a kind of cognitive dissonance that is high even for the standards of his government. In March 2017, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, ruled that the National Assembly was in “contempt”, and that until ruled otherwise every action that it took would be without merit. The TSJ has never ruled the legislature to be out of this state of contempt. Since the ruling, Maduro regime officials have systematically ignored every move made by the legislature, citing the March 2017 ruling.
In late September, Maduro referred to the National Assembly as still being “in contempt”.
Parra’s “Election” Earns Rebuke from Regime Allies
The governments of Uruguay, Argentina, and Mexico–three of the few remaining friends that the regime has in the region--issued statements condemning Parra’s election has an affront to democracy.
The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a lukewarm message on its Twitter account that, far from backing Parra, called the National Assembly “a key pillar” of democracy, and for the election of the president of the body to follow the country’s own laws:
Mexico hopes that Venezuela’s National Assembly will be able to elect its executive committee democratically, as outlined by the Constitution of our sister nation.
The legitimate functioning of the legislative branch is a key pillar of democracies.
Uruguay’s incoming president, Luis Lacalle Pou, reacted to the regime’s move at the National Assembly in the following way:
What happened in Venezuela [in regards to] the prevention of the normal functioning of the National Assembly constitute a new blow against democratic institutions, demonstrated once more by the maneuvers of the Maduro regime to centralize power in violation of the people’s will.
The strongest rebuke came from the government of Argentina, headed by Luis Alberto Fernandez and Kristina Kirchner, once one of chavismo’s staunchest allies in the region. In a message posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Argentinian government said:
The Argentinian government deeply regrets what happened today in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (…) The attacks suffered by deputies, journalists and members of the diplomatic corps as they attempted to enter the National Assembly to elect their new executive committee are incompatible with democratic society (…) [What happened] represents a new obstacle for the functioning of the rule of law…
In contrast, Moscow issued a statement applauding Parra’s election, calling it the result of a “legitimate” democratic process.
Despite Evidence, Regime Claims Police, Soldiers Helped Deputies Enter National Assembly
Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez said in a series of tweets today that the National Guard deployed to the area around the National Assembly yesterday worked to “guarantee” access to the building by everyone, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In fact, National Guard soldiers and National Bolivarian Police officers hindered access to the building by opposition deputies, and prevented an important number of them–including Guaido himself–from entering the building.
Below, some video showing the authorities preventing access to the National Assembly yesterday:
Defiant Guaido to Lead Session Tomorrow
A defiant Juan Guaido reiterated an announcement he made yesterday that he would lead tomorrow’s parliamentary session from the National Assembly, setting up a potential clash with the legislative faction supporting Luis Parra.
We’re going to the federal legislative palace tomorrow, and that’s where the dictatorship will decide if it will continue to make political mistakes.
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