Venezuela Congress Swears in 3 Disputed Opposition Deputies

  • Move sets up clash with pro-government lawmakers, high court
  • Social media ablaze with video of combative opposition leader

Venezuela’s National Assembly swore in three opposition deputies who had been disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court after elections last month, setting up a confrontation with the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

As opposition lawmakers chanted “We’re 112!” in reference to their elected two-thirds legislative majority, pro-government deputies protested the installation and said any laws approved with the votes of the disputed lawmakers would be unconstitutional.

“The government won’t recognize or enact any law that this assembly approves,” former National Assembly president and pro-government deputy Diosdado Cabello said in a press conference. “This parliament has become illegal.”

The addition of the three deputies would restore the opposition’s so-called supermajority of 112 seats in the 167-seat National Assembly and give it widespread powers to oppose Maduro’s government. Opposition deputies, who took control of the assembly for the first time in 16 years Tuesday, have pledged to start the year probing allegations of government corruption and remove Maduro from power within six months.

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After the Dec. 6 elections, the outgoing congressional leadership who supported Maduro’s government had tried to undermine the incoming legislature. It appointed more than a dozen justices to the Supreme Court, which subsequently stripped the opposition of its supermajority by barring the three of its newly elected lawmakers from taking office over alleged election irregularities.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan social media was set ablaze with a video of National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup having photographs of Maduro and former President Hugo Chavez removed from the halls of Congress.

“There is definitely a clash of powers, but that’s what happens when different parties hold the legislature and the presidency,” Greg Weeks, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “If the government were to ignore legislation entirely, it would need the support of the armed forces, and up to this point the military has shown no signs it would support such an unconstitutional action.”

— With assistance by Jose Orozco

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