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LATIN AMERICA

Tensions rise in Venezuela as new assembly prepares to take power

Maduro administration responds to inauguration of opposition-led parliament with hostility

Venezuela was living through moments of high tension with just hours to go before the new parliament was due to be inaugurated. Among the incidents reported, pro-government supporters blocked Henry Ramos Allup, the newly elected speaker of the National Assembly, from entering the building.

Following the December 6 elections, the government of Nicolás Maduro has been introducing a series of measures to try to curb the powers the opposition deputies will have when they take over the National Assembly, including appointing a panel of new members to the Supreme Court just days after the race.

Chavistas shouted insults at the new speaker and then attacked his car before he could drive away

The Venezuelan president has attacked the incoming parliament, calling it “an upper-class assembly,” and vowed to continue with his plans to build a socialist state in Venezuela.

On Sunday, 112 lawmakers in the opposition elected Ramos Allup as the new speaker, but on Monday, a security guard denied him entry to congressional offices. Allup said he wanted to get a balance sheet of his savings and expenses from past terms but the man who was guarding the gates told him he could not come in. The opposition leader later reported that as he left, “very carefully and very calmly,” a group of people who identified themselves as chavistas shouted insults at him and then attacked his car before he could drive away.

Allup said the group told him they would stay in the area in anticipation of the next day’s inaugural events.

The new congressional leader has urged the opposition’s 112 deputies to attend the ceremony even though the Supreme Court suspended the investiture of three opposition lawmakers and one chavista congressman.

Both the regime and the opposition have encouraged supporters to join congressional leaders as they walk to the National Assembly on inauguration day

Earlier in the day, Allup also told the media the congressional investigation of overspending and misappropriation of public funds by the Nicolás Maduro administration will reach “truly colossal dimensions.”

Both the regime and the opposition have encouraged supporters to join congressional leaders as they walk to the National Assembly on inauguration day.

Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), an umbrella group for opposition parties, invited supporters to walk with lawmakers for the last four blocks toward the National Assembly and it called on people to put up the Venezuelan flag in their homes on Monday night to celebrate the next day, inauguration day, as “a public holiday.”

Meanwhile, chavista congressmen also asked their supporters to join them in a peaceful march to the ceremony after promising to defend “the conquests” of the so-called “Bolivarian revolution.”

“I ask for the people’s support so that the Assembly first does not sabotage resources”

President Maduro

President Nicolás Maduro explicitly asked supporters to march peacefully alongside their congressmen, “without falling into provocations.” He has also expressed a desire to see this new congress support him in passing “a national emergency” decree to address “the big economic issues.” The president said he would announce his official plan “in the next few days.”

Maduro said the text for the decree is ready and it will “raise, one by one, the fundamental elements of production, distribution, commercialization, and price regulation.”

“I ask for the people’s support so that the Assembly first does not sabotage resources... And second, so that it facilitates the means for the plan for economic recovery,” he said during a televised speech from the presidential palace, before adding that he will soon announce his new “economic Cabinet” members.

The president also responded to the US State Department’s remarks regarding its concerns over inauguration day, saying that it should not “interfere” in issues that concern Venezuelans.

The president also responded to the US State Department’s remarks, saying that it should not “interfere” in issues that concern Venezuelans

On Monday, the Venezuelan government announced an amendment to the Law of the Central Bank of Venezuela. This new measure strips parliament of the power to choose the bank’s board of directors. Before, the president had to submit his nominations to the National Assembly and lawmakers would approve the new appointees by majority vote. Now, the law grants the president the power to appoint directors for a seven-year term. The new measure also allows the bank to “temporarily suspend the publication of information.”

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino warned that the armed forces will not help “disregard” the country’s democratic institutions and urged politicians to keep them out of the political “diatribe” surrounding the inauguration of the new congress.

English version by Dyane Jean Francois.

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