Venezuela crisis: Juan Guaidó rival declares himself new Speaker

Juan Guaidó climbing a fence in front of the National Assembly Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Juan Guaidó, left, tried to climb over the fence to get into the National Assembly building

Venezuela’s main opposition party has denounced what it called a coup, after its leader Juan Guaidó was replaced as head of parliament.

Mr Guaidó was prevented from attending the parliamentary session by police.

He had been seeking re-election as head of the country’s National Assembly.

The US, which recognises Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader instead of President Nicolás Maduro, described Sunday’s events as a farce.

Mr Guaidó was replaced as parliament’s Speaker by a former ally, Luis Parra.

The move came after Mr Parra’s parliamentary faction split from the main opposition and joined the governing Socialist party.

Mr Parra declared himself the new Speaker by megaphone – a move denounced by the opposition, which said he had been sworn in without votes or a quorum.

President Nicolas Maduro promptly backed Mr Parra, declaring that “Guaidó was kicked out of the National Assembly by the votes of his own opposition”.

‘You are the past’

In a heated exchange at the doors of the National Assembly, Mr Guaidó reportedly told a security officer: “This is unprecedented!”

Images later showed him trying to climb a fence to gain entry to the building.

Mr Guaidó said that only pro-government politicians and opposition deputies critical of him had been allowed to enter the building, and that security forces had set up barricades in central Caracas.

Before the dramatic declaration, AFP reported that opposition deputy Jose Brito – another opponent of Mr Guaidó – told journalists that Mr Parra would stand for the role of Speaker.

“You could have been the future – now you are and will be the past,” Mr Brito told reporters, addressing Mr Guaidó.

State broadcasters later described Mr Parra as the new Speaker.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Luis Parra, a dissident opposition politician and rival of Juan Guaidó, was declared Speaker

Before the vote, Mr Guaidó had accused the government of attempting to thwart his re-election as parliamentary Speaker by bribing and intimidating politicians.

Mr Parra, however, told state television that those who were present in the chamber opened the session without Mr Guaidó because he had not arrived.

“We announced this morning before entering the legislative palace that the rebellion of the deputies… would be clearly expressed,” he said.

In December, Mr Guaidó had vowed to investigate alleged wrongdoing by assembly politicians, including Mr Parra for unduly advocating for a businessman linked to President Maduro’s government.

How did we get here?

Last January, Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president – a move that was quickly backed by almost 60 countries, including the US and UK – after disputing President Maduro’s 2018 re-election.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Supporters of Mr Guaidó denounced the election of Luis Parra as a “parliamentary coup”

Mr Guaidó’s position at the head of the opposition-led National Assembly was the basis of his claim to be Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.

But after a year of failed attempts to oust President Maduro, he has been struggling to maintain unity among the opposition.

President Maduro, meanwhile, has maintained his position despite intense domestic and international pressure, thanks largely to the support he has from the Venezuelan military.

How has the US reacted?

Despite the apparent election of Mr Parra, the US said it continues to recognise Mr Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader.

Through its embassy to Venezuela – which has been located in Bogotá, Colombia, since the two countries cut ties in 2019 – the US said Sunday’s events were “completely against the will of the people and the laws governing the process”.

Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for the US State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, added: “The desperate actions of the former Maduro regime, illegally forcibly preventing Juan Guaidó… from entering the building, make this morning’s ‘vote’, which lacks quorum and does not meet minimum constitutional standards, a farce.”


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