CARACAS, Venezuela – For the first time in 17 years, Venezuela’s opposition has taken control over the Congress. The swearing in ceremony was carried out on Tuesday under heavy political confrontation, as it is customary at every major political event in this South American country. Venezuela is highly polarized and socialist leaders protested and accused the opposition of violating norms.
Former Secretary-General of the Democratic Action party Henry Ramos Allup was sworn in as the new Congress president, with Enrique Márquez and Simón Calzadilla as first and second vice-presidents, respectively.
The MUD invited guests to the swearing in process, including family members of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López and former lawmaker María Corina Machado, as well as Miranda state governor and former MUD presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.
The Democratic Unity Roundtable, known as the MUD, won 112 seats in the past parliamentary elections that took place on Dec. 3. Under Venezuelan law, that number means that the opposition won the two-thirds supermajority, which it will need to make major moves, such as firing top officials and calling for a revocatory referendum on Nicolás Maduro continuing as a president of the Bolivarian Republic.
However, the Supreme Court in late December ordered three opposition lawmakers to be temporarily suspended from taking their seats, after socialist leaders claimed that there had been voting irregularities. Maduro’s administration appointed over a dozen justices to the high court.
Tensions inside the assembly began when it was confirmed that the three MUD legislators would have to wait until investigations into the allegations are completed before they can take office, which could take two months. Until then, the opposition cannot make any major decision, since there is no supermajority with 109 lawmakers.
As the swearing in was still in process, 54 government legislators, including Maduro’s girlfriend Cilia Flores, stormed out of the National Assembly as a sign of protest. They argued that the “ultra-right-wing” was violating the assembly regulation over the right to speak.
Former assembly’s president Diosdado Cabello declared from outside the Congress building that they had left because they made a formal complaint that was ignored.
While the socialist party claims it will defend Hugo Chávez’s revolution, opposition lawmakers are promising to make major changes in all fields. They are giving Maduro a semester to take serious measures to slow the triple-digit inflation, estimated to be among the highest worldwide, by falling in line with their economic program, or face removal from office.
One of the MUD’s main points in the agenda is the amnesty warrant to dozens of jailed students and political leaders that have been confined to prison by the “Chavismo” because of their political point of view.
As a measure to stop corruption, the opposition is also aiming to use the National Assembly to hold investigative hearings and commissioning audits of government agencies.
Moreover, the MUD is pushing for the release of Central Bank data, which has not been published since December 2014. Opposition lawmakers started announcing that move since they won the past elections, but as a last-minute action Maduro approved on Dec. 30 the change of the law that rules over the Central Bank, just a day before his power to govern by decree expired.
The announcement became public on Monday Dec. 4 and means the bank is allowed to withhold any information it considers as a threat to national security or economic stability. Besides, the president will no longer need approval from the National Assembly to hire and fire directors of the organism.
The new law also enables the Central Bank to allocate money to the state, all without legislative approval. In March Maduro was granted the power to govern by decree when the Congress was still dominated by his supporters.
Source: Los Angeles Times