Mérida, January 6, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s newly elected National Assembly (AN) was seated on Tuesday for the 2021-2025 term.
Lawmakers selected former Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez as the new National Assembly president, Iris Varela as vice president and Didalco Bolivar as second vice president.
“There must be reconciliation but without amnesia. There were crimes against the most humble people which must be paid for,” Rodríguez assured in his opening speech.
The new AN president went on to call on new legislators to listen to people’s demands and “rebuild what was destroyed,” in reference to the opposition’s actions after winning a parliamentary majority in 2015.
The opposition-controlled parliament was declared in contempt and its decisions deemed “null and void” following a dispute with the Supreme Court in 2016. The body retained support from the US and allies and its leaders repeatedly voiced support for sanctions and regime change efforts.
For his part, United Socialist Party (PSUV) deputy Diosdado Cabello welcomed the recently elected opposition deputies during his speech.
“I am sure the elected opposition lawmakers will legislate for the people alongside our majority,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the opposition deputies, who represent almost 10 percent of the parliament, rejected the Bolivarian Bloc’s leadership proposal and abstained from voting.
More than 6 million voters elected 277 deputies for the National Assembly on December 6. The ruling PSUV party and allies achieved 69.32 percent of the valid votes cast and 253 deputies. Turnout stood at 30.5 percent of the electoral roll.
While the installation ceremony had a host of international guests and diplomats in attendance, Washington was quick to voice its opposition.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared once again that “[opposition leader and former AN President] Guaido and the [outgoing] National Assembly are the only democratic representatives of the Venezuelan people.”
The Trump administration rejected the December 6 elections as “fraudulent” and refused to recognize its results. The Lima Group, a regional bloc composed mostly of right-wing Latin American governments and Canada, echoed Washington’s position in a joint statement, while OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called on the international community to dismiss the new AN as “spurious.”
However, the European Union struck a different tone in a recent statement by referring to Guaido and allies as “representatives of the outgoing National Assembly,” no longer acknowledging the opposition leader as “interim president.” Two EU diplomats told Reuters that Guaido’s self-proclaimed post no longer had “institutional standing” now that a new parliament was seated.
The European bloc claimed in its statement the elections “failed to comply with the international standards for a credible process.”
“The EU will maintain its engagement with all political and civil society actors striving to bring back democracy to Venezuela, including in particular Juan Guaido and other representatives of the outgoing National Assembly,” the statement went on to say.
Opposition sectors led by Guaido held a virtual ceremony on Tuesday as well and installed a parallel legislative body, although the number of former deputies that participated is not known.
The hardline opposition groups boycotted December’s elections and instead decreed an extension of the mandate of the outgoing National Assembly’s term into 2021.
In response, the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber invalidated the measure. The sentence declared any action taken by legislators to “perpetuate their status as National Assembly lawmakers” to be “lacking in judicial validity and effect”.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.