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 opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been sentenced to 13 years and nine months in jail for inciting violence.
Leopoldo Lopez, 44, was found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014 in which 43 people – from both sides of the political divide – were killed.
He had been held in a military prison since February 2014.
While the court verdict was being awaited, fighting broke out between his supporters and pro-government activists outside the courthouse in Caracas.
Leopoldo Lopez’s supporters said one of them had suffered a heart-attack during the disturbances.
The court ruling was revealed by Leopoldo Lopez’s Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) political party and later confirmed by his lawyers.
Leopoldo Lopez’s defense team earlier said there had been serious irregularities in the trial, with the judge hearing 138 witnesses for the prosecution but only one of the 50 witnesses and pieces of evidence submitted by the defense.
His family says he has been in solitary confinement for most of his 19 months in prison and that his human rights have been violated.
Several other opposition leaders have also been held in detention and their fate has divided opinion in Venezuela.
The US government and the United Nations have called for their release.
Reacting to the court verdict, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson said she was “deeply concerned” by the conviction.
Roberta Jacobson also urged the Venezuelan government to “protect democracy” in the country.
For many poorer Venezuelans, Leopoldo Lopez is seen as a dangerous figure who incites violence and coups against the government and who is out of touch with the needs of most ordinary people.
His critics point to his involvement in 2002 in a failed coup attempt against late President Hugo Chavez.
However, Leopoldo Lopez’s supporters say he is a scapegoat for current President Nicolas Maduro during Venezuela’s economic crisis that has led to shortages of basic goods.
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