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Maduro's long standoff against Venezuela’s parliament

AFP archives | Juan Guaido (L) and Nicolas Maduro (R).

When Juan Guaido, president of Venezuela’s national assembly, proclaimed himself the country’s acting president on January 23, it was the culmination of parliament’s three year-long confrontation with President Nicolas Maduro.

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Guaido’s declaration that he – and not Maduro – is Venezuela’s legitimate president marked the apogee of the national assembly’s tensions with the country’s official leader. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at the key dates in the three years of escalating hostilities between Venezuela’s legislative and executive branches.

December 2015: the opposition wins the legislative elections

After Maduro took office in 2013, opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledzma were neutralised when they were arrested on charges of plotting coups. But a far bigger threat to Maduro’s hold on office emerged in the last month of 2015, when an opposition coalition, the Democratic Union Roundtable (DUR), defeated his Chavismo United Socialist Party of Venezuela in parliamentary elections.

>> Read more: Venezuela opposition protests as Maduro calls for early elections

By this point, the price of oil – which generates 96 percent of Venezuela’s revenues – was at its lowest in seven years. The country started to face serious shortages of food and medicine.

2016: the battle over the recall referendum

The Venezuelan Supreme Court – mostly comprised of Chavismo judges – accused four MPs, three of them members of the opposition, of electoral fraud. The DUR refused to withdraw its three lawmakers from the National Assembly because it would rob the coalition of the two-thirds majority needed to trigger a recall referendum on Maduro.

2017: the Supreme Court gives itself parliament’s powers

After months of escalating tensions, the supreme court granted itself the powers exercised by the national assembly in March 2017. Caving in to outcry from the international community, Venezuela’s highest judicial authority made a U-turn at the start of the following month. But the public outcry over the Court’s initial decision took several months to abate, while nearly 130 people – mostly anti-Maduro demonstrators – were killed during a succession of protests.

July 2017: the ‘Constituent Assembly’ supersedes parliament

Maduro called elections for a new legislature, intended to supplant the DUR-controlled national assembly. With the opposition boycotting the vote, the constituent assembly was set up, with an overwhelming Chavismo majority. The new body attributed to itself most of parliament’s powers.

May 2018: a boycotted presidential election

Talks broke down between the government and the opposition in February 2018 over a presidential election to be held late in the year. In response, the executive announced that the poll would be brought forward to May.

Out of fear that the election would be riddled with fraud, the opposition boycotted the vote. Consequently, Maduro was easily re-elected. The DUR, the US and the Lima Group (a pan-Americas organisation of 14 states) all refuse to recognise the results.

January 2019: Juan Guaido goes from national assembly president to self-proclaimed Venezuelan president

On January 5, Guaido became the youngest leader of parliament in the country’s history. Five days later, Maduro was sworn in for his second term as Venezuela’s head of state. Guaido made his views on the Chavismo president clear, calling him a “usurper”.

On January 23, Guaido declared himself the country’s acting president. US President Donald Trump immediately expressed support, as did every Lima Group member except for Mexico. The European powers give Maduro until February 3 to announce new elections – failing which, they will recognise Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

This article was adapted from the original in French

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