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Guaidó Blocked From Election As Head Of Venezuela's National Assembly


Who's really in charge of Venezuela's Congress? A remarkable photo from the other day shows opposition leader Juan Guaido trying to get into the legislature. Armed men blocked his way, so he tried to climb over a fence. And in his absence, supporters of President Nicolas Maduro said one of their own was taking over. Mariana Zuniga is covering this. She is a journalist based in Caracas. Welcome to the program.


INSKEEP: Is it fair to call this a coup?

ZUNIGA: Well, the opposition leaders are calling this a parliamentary coup. And it is certain that the situation is strange. On Sunday, it seems that President Nicolas Maduro attempted to take control of the last independent institution in the country, which is the National Assembly. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has led the body since last year when he started a campaign to unseat Mr. Maduro, was supposed to be reelected as head of the Parliament that day. But security forces, as you just said, who are loyal to Maduro surrounded the National Assembly building and blocked some opposition lawmakers from entering. But the lawmakers who backed Maduro were allowed to enter inside. At the same time, Luis Parra, a former opposition politician accused of accepting government bribes, was sworn in as the body's new president.

INSKEEP: So what does this do to the effort to unseat President Maduro? I do know that Guaido was using his presence at the head of the assembly to essentially declare himself president because Maduro had been unfairly elected.

ZUNIGA: Well, yes. The problem now is that many people - or that's what Maduro tried to do is that if Guaido is not the leader of the Parliament anymore, he can claim to be the president or the interim president of the country. And that's why Maduro did these moves. Also the Maduro government has made several attempts to undermine the National Assembly who has been controlled by the opposition since 2015. For example, in 2016, the pro-government Supreme Court escribed (ph) this body from its power. And in 2017, Maduro also create another constituent assembly to supplant the National Assembly authority.


ZUNIGA: So this is not the first time he tried to do something like this.

INSKEEP: Yeah. They've already taken the power away from this National Assembly. But you still have the majority of the National Assembly wanting to support Juan Guaido but being kept out of the chamber at the time of this vote. Is that majority finding any way to reassert itself and say, no, in fact they're the National Assembly and they're still in charge and they want to pick their own leader?

ZUNIGA: Well, actually, later that day - I mean, today, the - every Tuesday the National Assembly will have their normal session. And this man Parra will try to proceed (ph) his first meeting and Guaido wants to go and retake the National Assembly. This will happen today in Caracas at around 10 a.m. So we'll have to wait and see what will happen if Guaido will be let inside the premises of this palace and what will happen with these two men. The situation right now is really confusing.

INSKEEP: To say the least, but I guess we'll see what the security forces do this time.

ZUNIGA: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Mariana Zuniga, thank you so much.

ZUNIGA: Thank you.

INSKEEP: She's a reporter who joins us from Caracas, Venezuela, where we're awaiting the next chapter in the battle between Venezuela's president and its national assembly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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