Puebla, Mexico, January 6, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan legislators appointed Thursday controversial right wing figure Julio Borges to head the National Assembly.
Borges has been a divisive figure in Venezuelan politics since supporting a failed 2002 coup against former socialist President Hugo Chavez, and for his ties with the US government.
Since being sworn in, Borges has stated he will seek new elections, while calling for the military to support opposition efforts to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power.
“Let’s have elections … this year: governors, mayors, the AN and also the presidency,” he told El Nacional.
He also said he will try to oust Maduro from office.
“In the coming days, we will approve a declaration that Nicolas Maduro has abandoned his post,” he said.
The opposition says such a declaration could force Maduro to be removed. The move will likely be blocked by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which declared the National Assembly “void” after the majority opposition decided to swear in three legislators under investigation for electoral irregularities.
Maduro’s government has dismissed Borges’ appointment as unconstitutional, arguing the AN remains in contempt of the Supreme Court.
Who is Borges?
Borges has been a prominent figure in Venezuelan politics since he founded political party Primero Justicia in 2000. Since then, he has been elected to the AN three times. He also tried to run in the 2006 presidential elections, but dropped out well ahead of the vote.
As AN head, Borges replaces Ramos Allup, an old guard conservative from the longtime Democratic Action party who oversaw the right wing’s first legislative majority in nearly two decades in 2016. Allup stepped down from the office after a year of political stalemate between Maduro and the AN. Under Allup, the AN failed to achieve its key electoral promise to force Maduro from office with a recall referendum.
Like Allup, Borges has long been criticized for his support of the short lived 2002 coup that temporarily ousted Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
In 2011, an organisation representing victims of the coup accused Borges of actively participating in the coup, and called for his prosecution.
Over the years, Borges has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during the coup, though he has also sparked controversy for his ties with the US government.
In 2014, Wikileaks released a series of diplomatic cables that showed members of Borges’ political party, Primero Justicia, repeatedly met with US diplomats in the years after the coup.
The Venezuelan government has also long claimed Primero Justicia is a major recipient of US aid funding. Venezuelan political parties are barred from receiving donations from foreign governments. Critics of Primero Justicia allege the party receives US funding through an obscure network of NGOs.
One 2004 diplomatic cable showed the US government aid agency USAID spent US$450,000 on political programs in Venezuela, including providing cash for the “execution of electoral campaigns”.
The Obama administration has vehemently denied allegations it has sought to interfere in Venezuela’s democracy. However, in 2014, the US government earmarked US$5 million in aid funding to “support political competition-building efforts” in Venezuela.