Venezuela op­po­si­tion charges congress, swears in leader

Antelope Valley Press - - SECOND FRONT - By FABIOLA SANCHEZ and CHRIS­TINE ARMARIO As­so­ci­ated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaidó pushed through rows of na­tional guards­men block­ing congress to re­take his seat on Tues­day, and in a dark­ened build­ing with no power he pledged to press for­ward in his bid to top­ple the coun­try’s so­cial­ist pres­i­dent.

The man rec­og­nized by the U.S. and over 50 other na­tions as Venezuela’s right­ful pres­i­dent burst through the Na­tional Assem­bly’s wooden doors along with sev­eral dozen op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers af­ter nav­i­gat­ing their way past state se­cu­rity of­fi­cers wear­ing hel­mets and car­ry­ing shields.

“We want to re­gain Venezuela, damn it!” Guaidó said as he pressed through the crowd of guards, law­mak­ers and jour­nal­ists.

Once in­side, he led op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers in bois­ter­ously singing the coun­try’s an­them. Shortly there­after, elec­tric­ity in the build­ing went out, but leg­is­la­tors con­tin­ued in the dimly lit assem­bly, shout­ing into mi­cro­phones that did not work to de­clare Guaidó the pres­i­dent of the only op­po­si­tion-con­trolled na­tional in­sti­tu­tion.

“This is a show of what can hap­pen when we are united,” Guaidó yelled.

The dra­matic meet­ing fol­lowed sev­eral days of up­heaval in which gov­ern­ment-backed law­mak­ers an­nounced they were tak­ing con­trol of the Na­tional Assem­bly. The leg­is­la­ture is the op­po­si­tion’s lone na­tional plat­form and re­mains a thorn in Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro’s quest to con­sol­i­date power.

The fight for con­trol of the leg­is­la­ture comes as the op­po­si­tion is strug­gling to re­gain its mo­men­tum, nearly a year af­ter Guaidó de­clared him­self in­terim pres­i­dent as tens of thou­sands of Venezue­lans took to the street in protest against Maduro.

In­ter­nal feuds, cor­rup­tion scan­dals and a failed try at di­a­logue with Maduro’s gov­ern­ment have left op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers scram­bling to find a uni­fied path for­ward.

The lat­est brouhaha over the leg­is­la­ture could equip the op­po­si­tion with new im­pe­tus, an­a­lysts said, but also gives Maduro an op­por­tu­nity to make his ap­par­ent power-grab look more like an­other baf­fling po­lit­i­cal dis­pute. Guaidó, 36, has served as leader of the Na­tional Assem­bly for the last year and ar­gues that un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, he is Venezuela’s in­terim pres­i­dent on grounds that Maduro’s 2018 re­elec­tion was not le­git­i­mate.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido yells into a mega­phone for Na­tional Guards to let him and all op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers into the Na­tional Assem­bly, out­side the leg­is­la­ture in Caracas, Venezuela, Tues­day.

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