Jan. 5 (UPI) — The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro swore in their own candidate for the head of its National Assembly while blocking out members of the opposition including current National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
Congressman Luis Parra was named the new National Assembly president by an assembly of only pro-government lawmakers without the session being formally declared open in what opposition officials described as a “parliamentary” coup.
“Today, they dismantled the rule of law, assassinating the republic, with the complicity of a group of traitor lawmakers,” Guaido said.
Prior to the vote on whether to reelect Guaido as head of the National Assembly, security forces loyal to Maduro formed a cordon around the assembly building to prevent opposition lawmakers — who hold a majority in the chamber — from entering the building, while lawmakers loyal to Maduro were allowed inside.
At one point Guaido attempted to climb the fence surrounding the building but was forced back by members of the National Guard armed with plastic shields and batons.
“This is yet another proof that we live under a dictatorship, as if anyone had any doubt,” Guaido told CNN. “Nevertheless we are going to do what we need to do and install the sole legitimate national assembly.”
Constitutional experts and members of the Venezuelan opposition have decried Parra’s appointment as illegitimate, citing National Assembly rules that require a quorum for the body to open business.
Guaido named himself the country’s interim president in January of last year, declaring Maduro’s rule illegitimate, and has since received the backing of dozens of nations including the United States.
Parra, a former member of the opposition who was ejected from the party after a corruption scandal in December 2019, delivered remarks on state television after being sworn in.
“Today, we want to open doors to the future of this parliament,” he said. “To the people that today expected a different message, we will continue to seek reconciliation.”
Multiple countries that support Guaido have said they will not support Parra as the head of the National Assembly, including Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs at the U.S. State Department, who declared there was “no vote” on Sunday.
“The desperate actions of the former Maduro regime, illegally forcibly preventing Juan Guaido and the majority of the National Assembly deputies from entering the building, make this morning’s ‘vote,’ which lacks quorum and does not meet minimum constitutional standards, a farce,” he said.