A new Venezuelan parliament was sworn in, with President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party consolidating its position and U.S.-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido eliminated.
Following the Dec. 6, 2020 elections, which were boycotted by the Guaido-led opposition, 256 of the 277 seats in the National Assembly are now in the hands of Maduro’s United Socialist Party and its allies.
The chamber, which has a five-year mandate, was previously controlled by an opposition majority whose leader since 2019 has been Guaido.
In January 2019, Guaido unilaterally declared himself Venezuela’s “interim president” after rejecting Maduro’s victory in the May 2018 presidential election. The United States immediately offered recognition and support to the little-known opposition.
Guaido later launched a failed coup, also with U.S. support, adding to speculation that he was working in coordination with Washington to weaken or overthrow the socialist Maduro.
“An important part of the opposition has adopted the extremist notion imposed on them by Washington during the Trump era,” Maduro said in a Jan. 1 television interview. “The Trump era is coming to an end. We will see how this part of the opposition reacts.”
Police and soldiers blocked the streets around the parliament building in central Caracas on Tuesday. Only a small group of people gathered during the weekly lockdown imposed by President Maduro over the COVID-19 outbreak.
New parliament speaker Jorge Rodriguez, meanwhile, joked with other lawmakers that the chamber needed an “exorcism” after the past five years, saying holy water had been sprinkled “in every corner” of the chamber.
Maduro and members of his party had advocated punishing “traitors” such as Guaido and other U.S.-sponsored opposition lawmakers who voted illegally in December to remain alongside the newly elected parliament.
The inauguration of Venezuela’s new parliament on Tuesday coincides with the waning days of the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump, who has been Guaido’s main ally and sponsor.
Guaido, now officially unemployed, plans to maintain a parallel parliament of shadow opposition lawmakers that promises a “diplomatic offensive” to ensure as many countries as possible avoid recognizing the Socialist-held congress and is urging his supporters to take to the streets.
“The national parliament will not be discontinued until free elections are held in Venezuela,” he declared in a video message published Sunday on Twitter. He made the remarks at a time when he faces increasingly weak opposition mobilization.
A referendum-style consultation convened by Guaido over five days in December 2020 to allow people to downvote on Dec. 6 failed to muster the large number of opposition supporters who participated in violent demonstrations in 2019.
Analysts, meanwhile, have stressed that the move by the Guaido-led opposition has no legal basis. Political scientist Jesus Castillo-Mollendo said the unilateral ruling had no legal basis and was not supported by the population.
Pompeo rejects ‘fraudulent’ new Congress
Meanwhile, outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected Venezuela’s new assembly as a “fraudulently elected body” and claimed in a statement that Washington has recognized Guaido as the “legitimate president of Venezuela.”
“We consider this group illegitimate and will not recognize them or their statements,” Pompeo added, referring to the new parliament, which has also been rejected by U.S. allies in Colombia, Brazil and Uruguay.
by Jeremy Abbott – American Correspondent – BN