BOGOTA, Colombia – The stalemate in Venezuela’s congress will continue on Tuesday when two men -- U.S.-backed Juan Guaidó and Russia-backed Luis Parra -- will fight for the seat of power at the legislative palace in Caracas during a regular session of the National Assembly.
The convoluted tug of war has emerged while the oil-rich country’s collapsed economy continues to push an ongoing refugee crisis. Parra, once a supporter of Guaidó, is now an ally of Nicolás Maduro, who has the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
National guards prevented Guaidó from entering the palace on Sunday. After attempting to climb a spiked iron fence, Guaidó and Maduro’s opposition decided to hold the year’s first legislative session at the headquarters of El Nacional, a daily newspaper in Caracas.
One hundred out of the 167 lawmakers ratified the leadership of Guaidó, who has the support of U.S. President Donald Trump and also faces the brunt of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, which is stacked with Maduro loyalists. Maduro also controls the military, the judiciary and the electoral council.
“This is a struggle against a regime that, as we saw yesterday, will do anything to prevent the return of democracy," said Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy to Venezuela during a news conference on Monday.
Russia recognized Parra’s election by a few dozen socialist lawmakers on Sunday as legitimate. And on Monday, Parra told reporters that for the 100 pro-Guaidó votes to be valid the elected officials needed to be inside the palace.
.@SecPompeo: @JGuaido personifies the Venezuelan people’s struggle to reclaim the prosperity and democracy they once enjoyed. No regime thugs, no jail cells, and no bribery or intimidation can subvert the will of the Venezuelan people. pic.twitter.com/YfQ4BR1TnZ— Department of State (@StateDept) January 6, 2020
Maduro and Russia need lawmakers’ power. Maduro is using Venezuela’state-owned company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, to pay for Russian loans, and he has continued his efforts to continue and expand the debt-for-oil arrangement. Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, supplies PDVSA oil to refineries in China and India.
The U.S. classified Maduro’s 2018 reelection as fraudulent and considered Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. Trump’s sanctions policy has not prevented the informal dollarization of the Venezuelan economy or Maduro’s debt-for-oil arrangements. Abrams said the U.S. will continue issuing sanctions.
We congratulate Juan #Guaido on his reelection as President of the National Assembly of #Venezuela. For the German government he remains the legitimate interim president to call for free and fair presidential elections as soon as the general conditions allow.— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 6, 2020
Congratulations to @jguaido on his re-election as the President of the @AsambleaVE. Unlawful acts against democracy and Constitution of Venezuela are unacceptable. 🇬🇪 stands by the people of 🇻🇪 and Interim President Guaido in their strive for freedom and democracy.— David Zalkaliani (@DZalkaliani) January 6, 2020