Chaos ensued outside of the top legislature in Venezuela, the National Assembly, on Sunday as dictator Nicolás Maduro deployed police and National Guard forces to block anti-Maduro members of the Assembly from entering the legislative headquarters, including President Juan Guaidó.
Video from the National Assembly building Sunday showed Guaidó, the official president of the National Assembly and constitutionally president of Venezuela, attempting to enter the building and his offices. Venezuelan law required a vote Sunday on the president of the National Assembly, which Guaidó and several other anti-Maduro members of the assembly were trying to attend.
Guaidó attempted to push through a wall of armed Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) soldiers blocking off the entrance to the Assembly. Failing to get through, he then turned to the high gate perpendicular to the GNB troops and began to climb. Pro-Maduro members of the mob pulled down on Guaidó’s suit until they successfully took him down, after which a brawl ensued between the Maduro thugs and lawmakers accompanying Guaidó. Women can be heard yelling at Guaidó to be careful as he struggled to climb over the gate.
Em Caracas hoje, Maduro tenta impedir, à força, votação legítima na Assembleia Nacional e reeleição de Juan Guaidó para a presidência da AN e do gov interino, crucial p/ a redemocratização do país. Brasil não reconhecerá qualquer resultado dessa violência e afronta à democracia. pic.twitter.com/M0g6CKztgx
— Ernesto Araújo (@ernestofaraujo) January 5, 2020
Maduro loyalists claimed that, as Guaidó did not arrive to the session he was trying to get to on time, he forfeited his right to participate in it.
Guaidó has been the legal president of Venezuela for a year, since first ascending to the presidency of the National Assembly and lawmakers then invoking the constitution to appoint him president. The Venezuelan constitution stipulates that, in the event of a “rupture in the democratic order” in which an executive refuses to leave power, the lawmaking body can remove that president and replace him with an interim tasked with organizing elections as soon as possible. Maduro’s last legal term as president expired in January 2018, but he staged an inauguration and maintained control of the nation’s military. Lawmakers chose Guaidó as their leader because the election that created the current congress, in 2015, was the last free and fair election in the country.
Despite being president of the country, Guaidó has failed to exercise any of his executive powers, as Maduro retains control of the military.
While Maduro’s forces blocked Guaidó from entering the National Assembly building, Luis Parra, a pro-Maduro lawmaker, declared himself the new president of the Assembly. Parra was once a member of the Justice First party, the opposition party of two-time presidential candidate against Maduro Henrique Capriles Radonski, but was expelled on charges of corruption. He identifies as a member of Justice First.
As the GNB and police blocked opposition lawmakers from entering the building and the opposition forms the majority bloc of the assembly, Parra failed to organize the quorum necessary for a vote on the National Assembly presidency or successfully begin a legal lawmaking session. Parra also did not hold a vote among the lawmakers present in the assembly, simply proclaiming himself the head of the body. He took his “oath” using a megaphone, as his contingent did not find or figure out how to turn on a microphone.
“Parra did not have enough votes for his election as president of the National Assembly and also violated at least the first ten articles of Interior Debate Rules related to the annual election process in the parliament,” the Venezuelan outlet Runrunes noted.
The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional also found evidence that those allowed inside for the vote were offered bribes to vote for Parra.
José Hernández, a lawmaker from Bolívar state, said on Twitter he had been offered $750,000 to vote against Guaidó as Assembly president.
Outside of the Assembly, the lawmakers blocked from entering held their own session and re-elected Guaidó as president of the legislative body. Most Latin American nations and the United States have accepted the legitimacy of this engagement and congratulated Guaidó.
Congratulations to @JGuaido on his re-election to the @AsambleaVE! Arrests, bribes and blocking access to its building were unable to derail #Venezuela’s National Assembly. Only a transitional government organizing free and fair presidential elections can end the crisis.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 6, 2020
Following his second election as Assembly president, Guaidó declared the “embarrassing show” by the Maduro regime a “failure” and the blockade keeping anti-Maduro lawmakers from doing their jobs a sign of failure.
“A year ago, the dictatorship would have never imagined that today we would have it in as compromised a position as this one,” Guaidó said. “That is why they tried to seize the Parliament today. This path has not worked for them and it won’t work [in the future]. Venezuela is firm and well-represented”:
Lamento el bochornoso show de la dictadura para intentar impedir lo inevitable: que a pesar de perseguir y encarcelar, no han doblegado el espíritu de lucha de los diputados y el de toda Venezuela.
El martes iremos a sesionar en el Palacio Federal Legislativo como corresponde. pic.twitter.com/RtquQ9rOYX
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) January 6, 2020
Guaidó announced on Monday that he had convened a lawmaking session for Tuesday that he intended on presiding over within the legislative chamber, daring Maduro’s military to block their opponents a second time.
“If tomorrow the dictatorship wants to again impede the entrance of representatives to the [National Assembly], the president of the parliament will decide to hold the session somewhere else,” Guaidó said, referring to himself.
Guaidó also left his political party, the socialist Popular Will party, stating that he wanted to be an independent to more freely make decisions as president. He then asserted that there were “no divisions in the opposition” and that, on the day he and his allies failed to enter their offices because of violence on the part of the Maduro regime, “today, we have again defeated the dictatorship.”
Parra appeared to prepare for a clash Tuesday in a video he posted to Twitter on Monday in which he entered Guaidó’s office, the chambers of the president of the assembly, and made himself at home.
Hoy estamos tomando posesión del Despacho Presidencial de la Asamblea Nacional, en cumplimiento a la decisión de la mayoría expresada el día de ayer en la Sesión de Instalación. #6Ene pic.twitter.com/6zmH6pfx6G
— Luis Eduardo Parra R (@LuisEParra78) January 6, 2020
Venezuelan media noted in particular that Parra appeared not to know how to pull out the heavy wooden chairs in the assembly president’s chambers, dragging them across the floor and making a shrill scraping sound for much of the video.
Parra has also insisted that quorum held in the National Assembly when he was elected despite the mathematical impossibility of such a claim.
“There were some lawmakers who decided to go put on a media show about how they couldn’t come in, but there were 150 of them in here, within the rotunda,” Parra claimed.
Maduro issued remarks on national television congratulating Parra for his alleged victory.
“The National Assembly held a session in the parliament building in accordance with the constitution. A new leadership was elected, consisting of the opposition, with parliamentarian Luis Parra at the head,” Maduro told Telesur, a Venezuelan regime-funded propaganda outlet.
The Maduro regime currently sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council.