Venezuela’s political crisis: Guaidó’s opponent says it’s time to reconcile with Maduro

Luis Parra says Guaidó climbed legislative palace fence as part of ‘a show’

CARACAS – When he surfaced as the little-known Venezuelan politician who Nicolás Maduro is supporting as the head of National Assembly, most political experts thought Luis Parra’s career was drowning.

Parra had been barred from the legislative chambers when security granted him access on Sunday. With the support of Maduro’s loyalists, he found a way to the limelight in his effort to get out from under the rubble of what he said was a “smear campaign.”

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)

Parra, a 41-year-old opposition lawmaker, said he has changed his mind about Maduro, because it’s time for “reconciliation.” His new position has prompted contempt from former supporters who are calling him a “traitor" on social media.

“Social networks are a different world, very different from everyday citizens,” Parra said in Spanish from his new office in Caracas. “They should go out to our state and see if they have social networks there, and if those networks provide a solution to their problems.”

During the recent interview, Parra held the same copy of the constitution that Maduro likes to hold during his televised speeches, and he said the images of Juan Guaidó climbing a spiked fence to enter the palace were part of “a show,” because no one was preventing him from going inside.

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)

The opposition fears Maduro and Russia are propping Parra in a ploy to mismanage assets from the state-owned oil and natural gas company. They consider Maduro’s 2018 re-election and his 2017-18 constitutional change illegitimate and rely on the 1999 constitution.

Parra’s troubles began in December when a journalist linked him to public corruption. His political party First Justice, or Primero Justicia, ejected him. Guaidó launched an investigation on the suspicion that Parra had allegedly received bribes to advocate for a Colombian businessman.

On Wednesday, the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela rejected Parra, who considers himself a fervent Catholic. Yaracuy’s First Justice party released a statement saying local leaders are outraged by his decision to stand against Guaidó, who is recognized by the U.S. and more than 50 countries as the interim president.

Parra was elected in 2015 to represent the Venezuelan state of Yaracuy, an agricultural area where the sugar cane production has plummeted. In 2017, he ran for governor, but he lost to a socialist. The next parliamentary election will be held this year.

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