CARACAS – Venezuela’s ruling socialist party will host a congress on Tuesday controlled by allies of President Nicolás Maduro. This is a change of control that many western nations have attacked as a result of a fraudulent election.
The country’s opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, who has served as parliamentary president since 2019, will set up a committee of legislators to compete with the socialist-led National Assembly after the opposition boycotted the December 6 general election.
The shift in legislative power, however, means further consolidation of power for Maduro, who appeared vulnerable in early 2019 when the United States and dozen other countries recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader, arguing that Maduro was a corrupt dictator overseeing an economic collapse .
It is also the symbolic end of the opposition’s five-year struggle to weaken Maduro after the 2015 landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, even if the change will mean little either for Maduro or for his opponents.
Control of parliament will give the ruling socialists little opportunity to improve a sanctioned crippled economy. And Maduro’s allies in the country’s Supreme Court had neutered the opposition legislature for years by shooting down every move it made.
The Trump administration has recognized the one year extension of the opposition-held Congress, but other international supporters of Guaidó, including the European Union, have yet to agree that the opposition is still right to control parliament.
The move has also created rifts within Guaidó’s coalition. A large opposition party abstained on the extension and several individual lawmakers announced that they would no longer serve as legislators after January 5th.
The upcoming inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden on January 20 after years of escalating US sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Maduro under Trump is another uncertainty for Guaidó.
Biden has repeatedly called Maduro a dictator and stated that he will work with other countries to seek free and fair elections in Venezuela, but has not given details of the measures he plans to take against the oil-rich nation.
A representative from Biden’s team did not immediately respond Monday when asked whether his government would continue to recognize Guaidó as parliamentary leader.
“An important part of the opposition has adopted the extremist vision imposed on Washington during the Trump era,” Maduro said in a television interview on Jan. 1. “The Trump era is ending. We’ll see how this part of the opposition reacts.”
Maduro calls Guaidó a US-backed puppet who wants to oust him through a coup in order to control Venezuela’s sizeable oil reserves. He said the December 6 elections had the same terms and conditions as the 2015 opposition-won vote.
Maduro, who retains the support of the armed forces and allies like Cuba, Russia and Iran, has since prevented opposition lawmakers from meeting at Congress headquarters and pushed dozens of lawmakers into exile.
But Guaidó has vowed to carry on. He promised a “diplomatic offensive” to ensure that as many countries as possible refused to recognize the legitimacy of the socialist Congress and urged supporters to take to the streets.
“The national parliament will not be stopped until Venezuela has free elections,” he said in a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday.