Venezuela: Opposition Breaks up in Parliament

By Marco Teruggi on January 5, 2020, from Caracas

Venezuela’s National Assembly has elected a new board of directors. Juan Guaido, who had assumed the post during this last year, is no longer the president of the Legislative Power. He has been replaced by another opposition deputy, Luis Parra, member of the right-wing Primero Justicia (Justice First) who will serve in this position for the 2020-2021term

Parra’s election occurred in a session in parliament on January 5 marked by doubts and speculation. The two different proposals for a new board of directors were already public since early in the morning: one ticket headed by Guaido and another by a different sector of opponents who had been in disagreement with Guaido’s coalition during the last months, amidst arguments and accusations over corruption from both sides.

This political scenario led to some uncertainty about who would get the needed majority of votes; Guaido’s bloc or the other opposition group headed by Parra, who would count on the votes of the Chavista deputies.

Guaido Absent in Parliament

The voting day was also marked with confusion by Guaido’s, claims from a street near the Legislative Palace, that a security operation prevented him from joining the session to be chair and win with a majority he claimed to have. He was accompanied by other deputies who have actually been disqualified by the Supreme Court of Justice.

This version of what happened was rejected by Chavista deputies,  by Luis Parra and opposition deputy Jose Brito. According to them, Guaido did not want to enter the building because he knew he would not have sufficient votes. Guaido would have rather opted for showing himself banned from entering the building instead of losing the presidency out of a lack of votes.

Because Guaido was not present to chair the session, the oldest deputy in parliament, Hector Aguero, was appointed to address the session. He raised the proposal of the ticket headed by Parra, who went on to win with the required votes.

“Thirty deputies from regions tired of this kidnapping, with a desire to pave the way for depolarizing the country, made our proposal clear. We proposed our alternative, about 150 deputies voted for it and it was recorded on camera,” Parra said after being elected president of the National Assembly.

Breaking Point

Electing a new board of directors became a turning point in this conflict because Guaido’s international recognition as interim president of Venezuela was built

upon his presidency in parliament. Once displaced from this post, the question is if he will continue being recognized abroad as interim president.

This question had an early response from the Trump Administration. Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mickael Kozak, described the session as a “farce” and noted that “Juan Guaido remains Venezuela’s interim President.”

In turn, Guaido set up what he called a session of the National Assembly outside the Legislative Federal Palace to elect a new board of directors and ratify his presidency for the term 2020-2021. This scenario would lead to the existence of a National Assembly headed by Parra and another National Assembly headed by Guaido.

This would not be the first time Venezuela’s opposition tries to create a parallel institution. There is the case of the so-called Supreme Court “in exile,” created in 2017 and operating abroad since then.

What will Guaido and Trump do?

What will Guaido try to do next? Answering this question entails analyzing what the U.S. Administration is trying to do regarding their Venezuela file. So far, they have made wrong calculations; the case of the Supreme Court “in exile” was laughable and never had any influence; Guaido never created a parallel government and his capacity to mobilize the population had its final failure last November.

Answering this question by the United States entails analyzing the U.S. scenario, where Trump is facing an impeachment but is backed by his party, which is going to defend him in the Senate and in the 2020 elections. But this support has translated into an internal opening to neoconservative actors.

The escalation of conflict and instability in Iran, as well as its impact on oil prices, may result in the need to speed up an outcome to the Venezuela issue. What happened last Sunday, described by the mainstream media as a coup d’état in Parliament, may be the opportunity to justify new steps in attacking the Venezuelan Government and its political process.

Venezuela’s political time is speeding up again following months of relative political stability while the economy was improving superficially, at least. But this has started to collapse as the dollar rose again and two military headquarters were attacked last December.

The next steps may be waiting for a session from the parallel National Assembly headed by Guaido; a new round of public measures and covert operations undertaken by the U.S.; and new legislative elections which, given current events, are not going to be recognized by the U.S. Administration.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau