Venezuela’s Guaidó continues to defy Maduro

Maduro steps up efforts to divide opposition

CARACAS – A tense stand-off ensued on Tuesday outside of Venezuela’s legislative palace in Caracas. Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed interim president of the oil-rich country that remains plagued with an economic crisis, pushed past President Nicolás Maduro’s officers. He ran inside and was sworn into office for a one-year term -- despite a power outage in the legislative chambers.

The lawmakers traveled in buses and a black sports utility vehicle with bodyguards. Men with rifles and bulletproof vests stood guard at the hotel where they had spent Monday night. Despite the precautions, a lawmaker took a punch to the face during the confrontation with guards outside the palace.

Parra rushed out of the chambers when the lawmakers broke in and Guaidó arrived to take the speaker’s seat.

Guaidó contests Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate and this forced him as the National Assembly’s speaker to step up. On Sunday, Maduro recognized Luis Parra, who was recently accused of public corruption, as Guaidó's successor on Sunday.

The National Assembly has 167 members. Guaidó reported 100 voted for him on Sunday during a legislative session at the headquarters of El Nacional newspaper. Parra, who was in the legislative chambers while officers prevented Guaidó from entering, reported 81 voted for him.

Parra, who recognizes Maduro as president, has the backing of Russia. Argentina announced the president of the southern South American country, Alberto Fernandez, and his vice president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, did not recognize Guaidó as the interim president.

Maduro’s loyalists are pushing for early 2020 legislative elections. Maduro’s opposition has dominated the National Assembly since winning a two-thirds majority in 2015. Experts like Maria Arocha believe Maduro’s strategy to continue consolidating power is to divide the opposition.

"This isn’t a geopolitical problem halfway around the world. It’s happening in our hemisphere,” Sen. Marco Rubio told The Associated Press. “Sometimes your choices aren’t between two ideal choices but between which of the two difficult ones is the right one.”

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