In a chaotic scene, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has forced his way into the National Assembly (the country’s parliament) building after being stopped by troops. The incident occurred as his rival for the position of parliamentary speaker held a session inside.
Juan Guaido, who was re-elected on January 5 to a second one-year term as head of the opposition-held congress, had pledged to preside over January 7 opening session after security forces blocked him from the building over the weekend to allow allies of President Nicolas Maduro to swear in their own speaker, Luis Parra.
On January 5, security forces blocked him to enter the parliament. He tried
again to break through a cordon on January 7. He and his supporters managed to
push through the riot police. Their arrival prompted pro-government lawmakers
Juan Guaidó went on sit down in the Speaker’s chair. He and his supporters
sang the national anthem before he was sworn in as Speaker during a power cut
which forced people to use phone lights.
Venezuela’s government websites have been hacked in an operation targeting the “dictatorship” of President Nicolás Maduro.
Calling itself “The Binary Guardians”, the hacking group posted messages appearing to support the actions of a group of armed civilians who attacked a military base in the central city of Valencia on August 6.
Meanwhile, President Maduro’s supporters marched in the capital Caracas.
They called for an end to months of opposition protests and unrest.
The hacked sites included the Venezuelan government, the National Electoral Council and the Venezuelan navy.
A message on the main government site made reference to “Operation David”, which Venezuelan media had reported was the codename of the attack in Valencia.
“This dictatorship has its days numbered,” the message added.
The government said it had repelled the attack in Valencia, which was carried out by a group of armed civilians led by a military deserter.
A search was under way for 10 men who escaped with weapons after the attack, President Maduro said.
The assault in the north-western city of Valencia was carried out by 20 people, he said. Two were killed, one was injured and seven were arrested.
Earlier, a video posted on social media showed uniformed men saying they were rising against a “murderous tyranny”.
On state TV, Niclas Maduro congratulated the army for its “immediate reaction” in putting down the attack on August 6, saying they had earned his “admiration.”
The president called the incident a “terrorist attack” carried out by “mercenaries”, and said the security forces were actively searching for those who had escaped.
“We’ll get them,” Nicolas Maduro vowed.
The government said that those arrested included a first lieutenant who had deserted. It said the others were civilians wearing uniforms.
President Maduro said the group had been backed by anti-government leaders based in the US and Colombia.
In August 6 video, a rebel leader who identified himself as Juan Caguaripano, said that his group – which he called the 41st Brigade – was taking a stand against the “murderous tyranny of President Nicolás Maduro”.
“This is not a coup but a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order.”
Violent demonstrations began in April and have spread across Venezuela which, despite being oil-rich, is experiencing severe shortages of food and medicines, as well as inflation in excess of 700%.
The incident in Valencia came the day after the first session of the newly inaugurated Constituent Assembly, seen by the opposition as a way for the left-wing president to cling to power.
Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly said that the new body will bring peace to Venezuela.
The Constituent Assembly has the ability to rewrite the constitution and could override the opposition-controlled parliament, the National Assembly.
According to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), the turnout in the controversial election for a constituent assembly was 41.5%, a figure disputed by the opposition.
The opposition coalition said 88% of voters abstained and it refused to recognize the election. It also called for more protests on July 31.
July 30 election was marred by violence, with widespread protests and at least 10 people killed.
President Nicolás Maduro hailed the poll as a “vote for the revolution”.
Venezuelans were asked to choose the more than 500 representatives who will make up a constituent assembly.
The constituent assembly was convened by Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the existing constitution, which was drafted and passed in 1999 when his mentor, President Hugo Chávez, was in office.
On July 31, the head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, announced that there had been an “extraordinary turnout” of more than eight million voters.
She also announced that President Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, was among those elected as representatives, as well as the president’s close allies Diosdado Cabello, Iris Varela and Delcy Rodríguez.
Image source Wikipedia
The announcement was met with outrage and derision by the opposition, who boycotted the vote.
Opposition politician Henry Ramos Allup said their figures suggested fewer than 2.5 million Venezuelans had turned out to vote.
With the opposition boycotting the election from the start and not fielding any candidates, it was always less about who would be elected and more about how many Venezuelans would take part in the voting.
The opposition held an unofficial referendum two weeks before the election asking Venezuelans whether they wanted a constituent assembly at all. According to opposition figures, more than seven million Venezuelans rejected the constituent assembly in that vote.
The opposition urged Venezuelans to stay at home and even some Chavistas (supporters of the socialist movement created by President Hugo Chávez and of which Nicolas Maduro is a part) said they objected to the constituent assembly and would not vote.
There were widespread reports of public sector workers being told by their bosses to go and vote or face being sacked.
How many people turned out was therefore seen as a key indicator of support for the government.
The opposition claims that the figures are unverifiable because a number of procedures which have been in place at previous elections were not followed.
For example, voters’ little fingers were not marked with indelible ink to prevent them from trying to vote multiple times.
There were also no independent observers.
However, Tibisay Lucena said voting had proceeded “normally” and that violent outbreaks at a small number of polling stations had been controlled.
Nicolas Maduro convened the constituent assembly on 1 May amid fierce anti-government protests.
The president argued the constituent assembly would promote “reconciliation and peace”, however he did not give details of exactly how rewriting the constitution would achieve such broad aims.
Government critics fear that President Maduro wants to use the constituent assembly to maximize his power and cling on to it for longer.
As the constituent assembly will be drawing up a new constitution it has the potential to fundamentally change how Venezuela is run.
The last time a constituent assembly met in 1999, the legislature was suspended while the constitution was debated.
The opposition has called for fresh protests on July 31.
On July 30, at least 10 people were killed in protests across the country, prompting opposition leader Henrique Capriles to speak of a “massacre”.
Despite a government ban on protests and the threat of jail terms of up to 10 years for anyone disrupting the electoral process, streets were barricaded and a number of polling stations attacked ahead of the vote.
Tensions are likely to increase further on July 31 and ahead of the swearing-in of the constituent assembly members on August 2.
Venezuela’s opposition coalition has won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, overturning nearly two decades of dominance by the Socialists of President Nicolas Maduro.
Five hours after polling ended, the National Electoral Council announced the opposition had won 99 seats.
President Nicolas Maduro has admitted defeat, recognizing “these adverse results”.
It is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by former leader Hugo Chavez in 1999.
The Socialists have gained 46 seats, with another 22 yet to be declared.
Results arrived much later than expected, five hours after polls closed. Fireworks erupted over the capital, Caracas, soon after.
Among the campaign issues were chronic food shortages of staples – such as milk, rice, coffee, sugar, corn flour and cooking oil.
Venezuela has been hit hard by the continuing low price of oil, its main export. It also has the continent’s highest inflation rate.
President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the situation on an “economic war” waged by the opposition.
“We have come with our morals and our ethics to recognize these adverse results, to accept them and to say to our Venezuela that the constitution and democracy have triumphed.
“We have lost a battle today, but the struggle to build a new society is just beginning,” Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president and head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, added.
Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition figure in the Democratic Unity Roundtable and a former presidential challenger, tweeted: “The results are as we hoped. Venezuela has won. It’s irreversible.”
Jesus Torrealba, opposition coalition chief, said: “Venezuela wanted a change and that change came. A new majority expressed itself and sent a clear and resounding message.”
The opposition alliance, made up of centrist and conservative parties, is confident of ultimately taking at least 112 seats after 16 years of socialist control.
The results also give stronger momentum to the opposition should it wish to call a referendum on Nicolas Maduro’s future. This could take place only when his presidency reaches its halfway point in April next year.
However, under Venezuela’s presidential system the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will still be a powerful force, as it controls many municipalities.
The next presidential election is due in April 2019.
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