Venezuelan Crisis Deepens as Opposition Lawmakers Reinstated

  • Congress was previously held in contempt for seating deputies
  • Addition of three lawmkers gives congress a ‘super majority’

Venezuela’s constitutional crisis deepened Thursday as the opposition-controlled congress voted to reinstate three deputies the government has accused of fraud.

The indigenous lawmakers from the Amazon region, Nirma Guaruya, Romel Guzamana, and Julio Ygarza, were sworn in after a raucous vote in which pro-government deputies shouted “fraud!” and turned their backs in protest.

The Supreme Court had held the National Assembly in contempt for seating the lawmakers after they were accused of irregularities during December’s congressional election. The deputies stood down in January to end the legislative impasse, while authorities probed the allegations. Since then, there has been no verdict, while the loss of the opposition’s so-called super-majority helped the courts to stymie its initiatives.

“The Supreme Court hasn’t emitted any sentence and there is no sentence that could take away the power given to us by the people of the Amazon,” the deputy Ygarza said. “There should be no threat against us, much less from the Supreme Court.”

The opposition’s renewed two thirds super majority gives it wide-reaching powers to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s rule. Promising sweeping change upon taking control of Congress, the opposition has vowed to oust Maduro before his term ends in 2019 and has simultaneously launched a wave of protests as it seeks to activate a recall referendum.

Today’s vote is likely to heighten tensions in the South American nation, which has seen riots in recent months as triple-digit inflation and shortages of most basic goods weigh on ordinary Venezuelans. Maduro has likened the efforts to a “coup” attempt and blames the shortages on business leaders and his political foes who he accuses of waging an “economic war” against his government.

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