Photo: Time, retrieved.
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- On Sunday, January 5th, the National Assembly was to convene in the first session of the year to appointment its authorities, but Maduro’s regime chose to have civilian and military state security forces taking over the Federal Legislative Palace and its surroundings. Nearby subway stations remained closed and internet coverage was limited. The Communications Ministry (without authority to grant or restrict access to the National Assembly) controlled who could enter the building. Most journalists and media were barred from the main building, and the ministry made a room available with a TV set, so the press could “cover the event” —through pro-chavismo Venezolana de Televisión (VTV.) This was just the beginning of a day marked by censorship and incoherence.
- With opposition deputies unable to enter the building, it was easier for the regime to impose new authorities. The session lacked the required attendance, and violating the debate and voting process, deputy Luis Parra proclaimed himself the new Speaker (Franklin Duarte as first vice president, José Gregorio Noriega as second VP and Negal Morales as secretary). On VTV, they repeated non-stop how these deputies were opposition-leaning, failing to address the expulsion from their parties because of a December 1st piece published by ArmandoInfo, explaining how they favored businessmen Alex Saab and Carlos Lizcano, both tied to the CLAP corruption scheme. According to the official narrative, these authorities were elected with the presence of all the deputies, while the GNB actually blocked Guaidó and dozens of lawmakers from attending.
- At the time, chavismo cheered the ArmandoInfo piece (corruption in the opposition, yay!) and it swore to investigate every claim to the very last consequence; Luis Parra denied everything and accused journalist Roberto Deniz of smearing his name. Well, yesterday Parra and the rest of the CLAP faction (as they were dubbed because of their involvement with Alex Saab) self-proclaimed with chavismo’s public support. The leader of the PSUV faction, Francisco Torrealba, who wasn’t even supposed to be there, since he used to be a minister for Maduro, issued orders to Parra, laying down the law: “Hey, sit down. Sit down, and we’ll stay here, nobody’s leaving.” Torrealba went on to appear on VTV, declaring that Guaidó didn’t have the necessary votes for reelection and that’s why he intentionally delayed the session. The thing is, the Speaker (Juan Guaidó) must be present during the first session of the year by law, and the authorities have to ratify attendance once the session starts. That didn’t happen.
- Opposition deputies went to the other side of town, then, to the headquarters of newspaper El Nacional, in Los Cortijos. By late afternoon, deputies and alternates voted directly for the new authorities of the legitimate National Assembly, 2020 period: 100 votes, despite having 24 deputies in exile, three deputies banned (from 2016), deputy Gilber Caro’s forced disappearance since December 20th, and Juan Requesens arrested at El Helicoide.
- The authorities for the 2020-2021 period are: Juan Guaidó as Speaker, Juan Pablo Guanipa as First Vice President (despite an existing arrest warrant against him), Carlos Berrizbeitia as Second Vice President, Ángelo Palmieri as secretary, and José Luis Cartaya as Undersecretary. Deputies in exile or in hiding didn’t vote remotely.
- Juan Guaidó swore-in authorities and declared the 2020-2021 period installed: “This National Assembly has fought against a dictatorship. I’m profoundly ashamed of the ridiculous embarrassment the dictatorship conjured to try to avoid the unavoidable, installing this new period with the necessary votes, counted one by one. Today, we defeated the dictatorship again.” Guaidó called for a session on Tuesday, January 7th and emphasized that the illegal board led by Luis Parra wouldn’t be able to summon the necessary quorum. He called, once more, for unity and announced that, in order to carry his duty with no strings attached, he requested a temporary suspension from his partisanship at Voluntad Popular. This is a tradition presidents complied with during the democratic era, to “rule for everyone.” It hadn’t happened in 20 years of chavismo.
- Maduro spoke from Macuto, in the state of Vargas, where he pretended to play softball. He said that militarizing the area surrounding the National Assembly was a standard security operation and Juan Guaidó “lacked the balls” to enter the building. He recognized Luis Parra as speaker, disregarding the contempt sentence that has nullified every legislative action since 2016.
- Maduro also said he’d meet with his prêt-à-porter opposition on Monday, adding that this roundtable with himself and Parra’s authorities will agree on appointing a “new CNE” for the 2020 elections, “where all opposition parties will run, I know why I’m saying it,” letting us know this election will be a verbatim copy of his 2018 “reelection.” He foresaw that chavismo will have 104 deputies in the National Assembly, since the ANC isn’t enough, Nicolás has a parallel National Assembly. The threat seems to warn us that these deputies now obey Nicolás and will steal their parties’ cards for this potential election.
- The CLAP faction’s self-proclamation as authorities, violating the proper procedure, produced several reactions. The U.S. said that these actions “go against the people’s will and laws that rule the process;” the Colombian Foreign Ministry warned the international community about the violence to stop the election from happening; the governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Saint Lucia rejected the violence and the outcome of the chavismo-endorsed session. The E.U. said they’ll “continue recognizing Juan Guaidó as the National Assembly’s legitimate speaker until the conditions for an adequate voting session are met,” and even governments allied to Maduro, like Argentina and Mexico, rejected the events.