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Venezuela's opposition-led assembly backs Guaido over Maduro choice

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Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela's National Assembly on Thursday ratified opposition leader Juan Guaido as legislative speaker, defying a Supreme Court ruling approving a rival opposition figure more favorable to President Nicolas Maduro.

The endorsement for Guaido continued a months-long stand-off with opposition rival Luis Parra, who Guaido has dismissed as "an accomplice to dictatorship".

"I will continue to exercise my functions," Guaido told reporters in Caracas after a session held by video-conference rejected the "illegal" Supreme Court's decision.

Opposition lawmakers also accused the court of "lacking independence, autonomy and impartiality."

Maduro's Socialist Party has backed Parra, who was briefly sworn in as speaker in January in a move slammed by the opposition as a "coup in the legislature".

Guaido, who held the position for the previous term, was barred from attending that vote by armed forces in chaotic scenes.

When he was finally allowed into the chamber, Parra had left. Guaido also raised his hand and was sworn in for another term as leader of the assembly.

Since then, Parra and Guaido have chaired parallel sessions of the National Assembly at different venues, now held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Guido announced Thursday an investigation into Parra and some of his backers for alleged bribes to lawmakers.

Crisis-hit Venezuela has been in political turmoil since 2019, when Guaido used his position as speaker to declare himself acting president in a direct challenge to the authority of Maduro.

Nearly 60 countries, including the United States, have recognized him as interim president.

However, Maduro -- with the backing of the armed forces -- holds tightly to the reins of power.

The National Assembly is the only Venezuelan branch of government in opposition hands, but its power has been usurped by the all-powerful Constituent Assembly, created by Maduro and dominated by his Socialist Party.

The Supreme Court, made up of Maduro loyalists, declared the opposition-led legislative body in contempt in 2017 and has since annulled its every decision.

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