Pro Guaido lawmakers struggle with the national guard to enter the National assembly as Luis Parra swears in at the assembly building session as the new leader of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela on January 05, 2020.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The leader of Venezuela’s internationally-recognized government was violently blocked from entering parliament, as the embattled administration of President Nicolas Maduro installed a new head of Congress.
Juan Guaido, who had used his position as leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly to declare himself as the country’s rightful interim president in early 2019, was prevented from entering parliament by Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guards on Sunday.
He had been due to attend a parliamentary session for what was expected to be his re-election as head of Congress.
At one stage during chaotic and at times violent scenes in central Caracas, Guaido was seen trying to climb over an iron fence in order to try to get into the building.
National guards with riot shields ultimately repelled Guaido’s efforts, who appeared to rip his blue suit during the melee.
The blockade, which was condemned by the U.S., European Union and a dozen Latin American countries as an assault on democracy, allowed Maduro’s regime to hand the post to Luis Parra — a former ally to the opposition before he was recently expelled from the party over corruption allegations.
Opposition lawmakers quickly held an impromptu session to re-elect Guaido at the headquarters of El Nacional, a pro-opposition newspaper.
It has resulted in two competing leaders of parliament, at a time when the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country is the midst of a long-running political stand-off.
“I regret the embarrassing show of the dictatorship to try to prevent the inevitable: that despite persecuting and imprisoning, they have not broken the fighting spirit of the deputies and that of all Venezuela,” Guaido said via Twitter during the early hours of Monday morning.
How did we get here?
Guaido assumed a rival interim presidency on Jan. 23 last year, citing Venezuela’s constitution, and denounced Maduro’s government as illegitimate after he secured re-election in 2018 in a vote that was widely criticized as rigged.
However, Maduro has refused to cede power. And, crucially, he still has the broad support of the military.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Maduro said lawmakers had chosen to elect a new head of Congress because of their frustration with Guaido, Reuters reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Guaido on securing re-election to the National Assembly, before reaffirming Washington’s support for a transitional government to bring about free and fair elections in the crisis-stricken country.
“Arrests, bribes and blocking access to its building were unable to derail Venezuela’s National Assembly,” Pompeo said via Twitter on Sunday.
“Only a transitional government organizing free and fair presidential elections can end the crisis.”