Over the weekend, Venezuelan opposition leaders warned the country's regime was poised to shut down the National Assembly. That hasn't happened — but something just as distressing to pro-democracy advocates is taking place.
Venezuela's National Assembly is controlled by the political opposition. And it recognizes its leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela's constitutionally legitimate president. So do the U.S. and some other 50 countries.
To punish the Asssembly, the government of President Nicolás Maduro is stripping three more of its leading opposition members — José Guerra, Tomás Guanipa and Pablo García — of their parliamentary immunity. That sets them up for arrest and prosecution for what the Maduro regime calls "treason" and "inciting insurrection." (More than a dozen other opposition deputies have had their immunity yanked this year.)
This latest move by the authoritarian socialist regime is a reaction to the U.S.'s tightening of economic sanctions against Venezuela last week. But it follows an ongoing strategy of keeping Guaidó free while jailing his lieutenants. That has a chilling effect on regime opponents but avoids the heavier international condemnation Guaidó's arrest would bring.
Even if it doesn't look like the present National Assembly will be shuttered, Diosdado Cabello — one of the regime's most feared figures and head of the rival National Constituent Assembly that Maduro created — says the government is considering holding early parliamentary elections. Critics say that's presumably to re-stock the National Assembly with regime-friendly deputies.
Meanwhile, Venezuela continues to suffer the worst economic collapse in the world today, thanks largely to the regime's mismanagement and its orthodox socialist policies, as well as depressed prices for oil, which is virtually Venezuela's only export.