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Venezuela: Guaido takes seat at head of parliament

January 7, 2020

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and a former ally have staked rival claims to the parliamentary speaker post. The National Assembly is the sole institution outside the hands of President Maduro's Socialists.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido enters parliament
Image: Reuters/F. Torrealba

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido presided over parliament on Tuesday following a tense stand-off with security forces, just days after a rival claimed the speaker position.

Former opposition ally Luis Parra named himself parliamentary speaker on Sunday after claiming the support of 81 lawmakers mostly from President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist party.

Read moreThe human cost of the US sanctions on Venezuela

The same day, Guaido was blocked from entering parliament and held a separate session at a newspaper in which 100 lawmakers backed his speakership. The legislature has 167 seats.

Guaido had vowed to preside over Tuesday's legislative session, dubbing Parra's action a "parliamentary coup."

Battle for last opposition stronghold 

On Tuesday, National Guard troops blocked Guaido from entering the National Assembly for half an hour, while Parra had occupied the speaker's chair during a brief session.

Guaido was eventually allowed in, at which point Parra was gone. Guaido was then sworn in. 

The National Assembly is the only branch of government in opposition hands and Guaido's supporters have described it as the nation's last democratic institution.

Guaido was elected head of the congress in January 2019. He used the position to gain international backing for his invocation of the constitution to assume an interim presidency, claiming Maduro was illegitimate and secured reelection in 2018 in a vote widely considered fraudulent.

Parra was expelled from his opposition party last month after a news report accused him of corruption linked to a food scheme with Maduro. He remains a lawmaker and Maduro recognized his election to parliamentary speaker.

Dozens of countries, including the United States, that recognize Guaido as interim president denounced Parra's appointment as illegitimate.

Despite a dual economic and political crisis, Maduro maintains control over state institutions and continues to have the support of the military.

He has also clamped down on the opposition, with more than 30 of Guaido's congressional allies in hiding, in prison, or in exile.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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