Venezuela’s political crisis escalates as Maduro tries to wrest parliament from Guaido


JUDY WOODRUFF: As Venezuela’s steep slide
into economic disaster accelerates, major political upheaval continues to roil the nation. The opposition to President Nicolas Maduro
took another hit in the National Assembly yesterday, and the leading opposition figure
found himself literally on the outside looking in. With support from the Pulitzer Center, special
correspondent Marcia Biggs reports from Caracas. MARCIA BIGGS: Chaos in Venezuela’s National
Assembly for a vote that was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. Lawmakers had gathered for the annual election
of new leadership in Parliament. And the projected favorite? Incumbent Speaker Juan Guaido, who
last year declared the presidency of Nicolas Maduro illegitimate. Invoking the constitution, he claimed his
role as de facto president and won the support of 58 countries around the world, including
the U.S.. But he’s failed to take control of the country.
The vote stalled for hours yesterday, and tempers flared as members of Parliament waited
for Guaido’s arrival as National Guards troops blocked his entrance. Then, without him, a
faction of supporters loyal to Maduro seized the floor. And by a quick show of hands and no formal
vote, they declared a winner. And that’s when the chaos erupted both inside and out. It’s been an incredible scene here. We’re
standing out in front of the National Assembly Palace, where Guaido was just voted out, but
only because he was stuck outside the gate with his supporters, unable to get in to vote,
the National Guard holding him back. Supporters of Guaido rushed the gate, screaming
that the country had become a dictatorship. Guaido himself even tried to jump the fence,
with troops beating him back. Meanwhile, the National Assembly dispersed,
with their newly elected leader, this man, Luis Parra, an opposition member willing to
negotiate with Maduro. The U.S. was quick to condemn the election, but President Maduro
seized on the results. NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuelan President (through
translator): The National Assembly has made a decision, and there is a new leadership
group from the opposition headed by Congressman Luis Parra from the First Justice Party. MARCIA BIGGS: Outside the palace, Maduro’
supporters rallied. But that wasn’t the end. Across town later that evening, Guaido held
his own vote, bringing together enough members of Parliament to garner the 84 votes required
to win reelection. JUAN GUAIDO, Venezuelan Opposition Leader
(through translator): I swear before God, before the Venezuelan people to fulfill this
constitution, the inherent duties of the position of president of the Parliament and interim
president of Venezuela, to enforce the rights of our Venezuelan brothers and sisters. MARCIA BIGGS: Big promises for a country which
yesterday had two competing presidents, now today dueling parliaments as well, and all
this as the country spirals further into a failed state. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Marcia Biggs in
Caracas.

Maurice Vega

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