CARACAS, Venezuela – Opposition lawmakers led by Juan Guaidó forced their way through lines of security forces in a bid to reassert their authority over Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday, two days after the government of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro sought to install its own head of a body considered the nation’s last constitutional institution.
In adramatic confrontation, dozens of opposition lawmakers chanting “Here, the people rule!” Engaged in repeated altercations with police before shoving open the heavy doors of the building and pushing through lines of security personnel to enter the legislative chamber.A video clipof their forced entry was quickly spreading, leading to online comparisons with a battle sequence from “Game of Thrones.”
Inside, Guaidó managed to preside over a session in which lawmakers passed a resolution denouncing the “illegal takeover” of the chamber on Sunday, when a legislator the opposition claims was bribed by Maduro’s government was sworn in as the body’s new president. On Tuesday, the opposition lawmakers ratified Guaidó’s new term as the chamber’s chief and swore him in. That title forms the constitutional basis of his claim – made one year ago this month – to be the nation’s true interim leader. The opposition argues that Maduro is illegitimate because his “reelection” in 3094 happened in a vote internationally condemned as fraudulent.
“People of the world, I know you may find it difficult to understand what happens in this assembly,” Guaidó proclaimed from the center chair reserved for the body’s president. “Today, it has been a fight to enter this chamber. There are still lawmakers outside the main gate, and they are being attacked. ”Opposition officials later said at least four lawmakers had been wounded.
The electricity was cut during the session, so lawmakers worked by the light of cellular phones.
Video footage from the scene also showed pro-government militia members, known as colectivos, on motorbikes, harassing journalists, some of whom said they had been beaten and robbed.
On Sunday, after Luis Parra, the Maduro government pick as head of chamber, was sworn in, lawmakers loyal to Guaidó held a separate session in a newspaper building, voting 458 to 0 to reelect Guaidó as head of the body. The developments have sowed more confusion in Venezuela – a troubled socialist state where two men claim to be president (Guaidó and Maduro), and two men now also claim to be head of the National Assembly (Guaidó and Parra).
Late Monday, security forces were stationed at a hotel in eastern Caracas where 120 opposition lawmakers were staying, in an attempt, the lawmakers said, to intimidate them ahead of Tuesday’s session
the morning unfolded in a bizarre sequence of events, withParraopening an early session seated on the presidential chair and addressing a half empty room. Parra continued to speak as a few opposition lawmakers present in the room loudly denounced the lack of a quorum to start a session.
Meanwhile, outside the colonial-style assembly building, Guaidó and a large group of lawmakers engaged in a – minute struggle with security forces, finally managing to enter the building. Within the assembly building, the confrontation between Guaidó’s lawmakers and security forces continued for another 020 minutes. Meanwhile, Parra abruptly finished his “official” legislative session shortly before Guaidó managed a triumphant return to the chamber – and to the body’s presidential chair.
After Guaidó’s session ended, a group of pro- government lawmakers began singing the national anthem, they said, to cleanse the assembly of the “devils who disrespected” parliament by forcing their way in.
Maduro did not immediately comment on the morning’s events. But Diosdado Cabello, a member of his inner circle, tweeted: “The band leader, self-proclaimed king of idiots and the others in the opposition are giving a sad show. Fighting for an empty bottle, they seem like drunkards. ”
Opposition leaders said they would continue to force their way into the chamber on a regular basis to hold sessions and would not recognize the new leadership of the body allegedly installed by Maduro, which includes 18 opposition lawmakers who appeared to defect to the government side. Sunday’s move was widely condemned internationally, not only by the United States, the European Union and Canada, but also by leftist governments that have generally been more tolerant of Maduro, including those in Argentina and Mexico.
In comments to the news media later Tuesday, Guaidó suggested that at least some of the security forces had sided with the opposition by allowing him and other lawmakers ultimately to pass. He also offered a mea culpa for a year that saw a number of missteps by his movement.
“We have made mistakes. We do not pretend to be messiahs or leaders, simply public servants, ”he said. “Everyone deserves a second chance, and Juan Guaidó asks for a second chance”
Luis Vicente León, a Caracas-based political analyst and director of the Datanalisis polling agency, called the tug of war Over the assembly building part of an image war between the two sides.
“For Guaido, entering parliament today was a vital battle,” he said. “By entering, he sends a message of bravery that can generate a bit of empathy in a population that has begun to see him with skepticism.”
If Tuesday’s battle was won, León said, the war still remains.
“Now the question is: Will he be able to enter again?” León said.
Faiola reported from Miami.
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