Troops blocked presidential rival from entering the parliament building in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas
Juan Guaidó attempting to climb over a fence into the assembly’s grounds but was repelled by members of Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guard.
Photograph: Rayner Pena/EPA
Venezuela’s opposition has accused president Nicolás Maduro of masterminding an illegal parliamentary “coup” after an apparent bid to decapitate the challenge from his presidential rival Juan Guaidó by replacing him as head of the country’s opposition-controlled parliament.
Guaidó shot to international prominence last January after he was elected president of Venezuela’s national assembly and used that position to declare himself the country’s legitimate interim leader.
On Sunday Guaidó had hoped to extend his leadership of the anti-Maduro movement by being re-elected as the assembly’s president for another year.
But there were scenes of chaos and confusion as security forces and riot troops blocked opposition lawmakers and journalists from entering the parliament building in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.
Dramatic video footage showed Guaidó attempting to climb over a fence into the assembly’s grounds but being repelled by members of Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guard.
After a lengthy stand-off, Luis Parra – nominally an opposition politician who many suspect has been co-opted by Maduro – declared himself the assembly’s new president with support from pro-Maduro members, while many Guaidó backers remained outside.
That move sparked outrage among Guaidó supporters in and outside of Venezuela.
The United States claimed it went “completely against the will of the people”, adding: “Democracy cannot be intimidated.”
Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, accused Maduro of attempting to forcefully prevent Guaidó’s re-election, tweeting: “Brazil will not recognize any outcome of this violence and this affront to democracy.”
Julio Borges, a prominent opposition politician, denounced what he called an “illegal and unconstitutional” maneuver “designed to impose a group of Maduro accomplices” on the assembly.
The move appeared designed to further weaken Guaidó, who recently vowed 2020 would be Venezuela’s “year of freedom” despite the growing impression that his campaign against Maduro is faltering.
More than 50 governments including the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s president, based on his leadership of the assembly and suspicions Maduro had stolen the 2018 presidential election.
Despite that backing, mass street protests, and at least two attempts to spark military uprisings against Maduro, Guaidó has failed to topple Hugo Chávez’s authoritarian heir, who still enjoys support from China and Russia.
In a recent interview with El País, Guaidó denied his movement had failed and compared himself to a jogger entering “the final lap” of the quest for political change.
Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at the Chatham House thinktank, said he believed Maduro’s “brutal and ham-fisted” move could backfire by “re-legitimizing” Guaidó as a “democratic martyr”.
Guaidó’s international supporters would remain loyal, even if he did not retain his position at the head of the national assembly. “They won’t abandon him,” Sabatini predicted.
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This post was originally posted on Venezuela | The Guardian – View Original Article