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Fight for control of legislature continues in Venezuela

Maduro aims to push Guaidó aside with Russia’s support

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 Assembly President Juan Guaido, Venezuela's opposition leader, tries to climb the fence past National Guards to enter the compound of the Assembly, after he and other opposition lawmakers were blocked by police from entering a session to elect new Assembly leadership in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. With Guaido stuck outside, a rival slate headed by lawmaker Luis Parra swore themselves in as leaders of the single-chamber legislature.(AP Photo/Andrea Hernandez Briceo)
National Assembly President Juan Guaido, Venezuela's opposition leader, tries to climb the fence past National Guards to enter the compound of the Assembly, after he and other opposition lawmakers were blocked by police from entering a session to elect new Assembly leadership in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. With Guaido stuck outside, a rival slate headed by lawmaker Luis Parra swore themselves in as leaders of the single-chamber legislature.(AP Photo/Andrea Hernandez Briceo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

Juan Guaid, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, juramenta tras ser reelegido al cargo con votos de legisladores de oposicin en la sede del peridico El Nacional, en Caracas, Venezuela, el domingo 5 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Andrea Hernndez Briceo)
Juan Guaid, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, juramenta tras ser reelegido al cargo con votos de legisladores de oposicin en la sede del peridico El Nacional, en Caracas, Venezuela, el domingo 5 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Andrea Hernndez Briceo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“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.

Lawmakers raise their hands to vote in lawmaker Luis Parra as president of the National Assembly, while many opposition lawmakers, including Assembly President Juan Guaido are blocked by police from entering the session, in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Guaids allies, who despite some defections still enjoy a comfortable majority in the assembly, immediately denounced the impromptu session as invalid. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Lawmakers raise their hands to vote in lawmaker Luis Parra as president of the National Assembly, while many opposition lawmakers, including Assembly President Juan Guaido are blocked by police from entering the session, in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Guaids allies, who despite some defections still enjoy a comfortable majority in the assembly, immediately denounced the impromptu session as invalid. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

Lawmaker Luis Parra speaks after he was sworn-in as National Assembly president while opposition lawmakers, including opposition Assembly President Juan Guaido, are blocked by police from entering the session to participate in the vote for new leadership, in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. With Guaido and his allies stuck outside, a rival slate headed by lawmaker Parra swore themselves in as leaders of the single-chamber legislature.(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Lawmaker Luis Parra speaks after he was sworn-in as National Assembly president while opposition lawmakers, including opposition Assembly President Juan Guaido, are blocked by police from entering the session to participate in the vote for new leadership, in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. With Guaido and his allies stuck outside, a rival slate headed by lawmaker Parra swore themselves in as leaders of the single-chamber legislature.(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.


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