By Carlos Camacho
The opposition-controlled National Assembly legislative is back in business Wednesday after the kidnapping of its first Vice President, the temporary occupation of the building by the military Tuesday and harassment against 96 of its 112 opposition lawmakers. And the opposition is gaining support.
National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who on January 23rd claimed the mantle of interim President of Venezuela, swore Fernando Orozco in as lawmaker for Trujillo state.
“The regime is finished. That’s why they are lost. And that’s why they are losing. They are defeated. Now is our turn to win!” a clearly emboldened Guaido said after swearing Orozco in, the first bit of good news for the opposition in a long while.
Fernando Orozco was elected as a candidate as third alternate for Trujillo state on the PSUV ruling party ticket of embattled leader Nicolas Maduro. The PSUV party was founded by Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and predecessor.
The defection comes at crunch time for the opposition: several members of its super majority are either imprisoned (Gilber Caro, Juan Requesens and Edgar Zambrano), in exile (Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio) or have had their immunity illegally lifted according to the Maduro-controlled Supreme Court. A number of them have chosen to safeguard themselves in diplomatic legations in Caracas, such as Freddy Guevara and Richard Blanco.
As in the last few days, the functioning of the sole power recognized by the international community was, to say the least, precarious. National Guard troops following Maduro orders prevented the functioning of the Assembly Tuesday, arguing that they had received word of a bomb inside the building. No device exploded or was found by Maduro’s bomb squad.
And on Wednesday, National Guard troops again prevented the press from entering the session. Journalists and opposition sympathizers had to park themselves outside the historical building in downtown Caracas, surrounded by troops and pro-Maduro “colectivo” gang members, following the session on their phones as the government-controlled internet sputtered and stalled.
Guaido also denounced harrassment from the Maduro-controlled Constituent Assembly against the National Assembly: the illegitimately constituted Constituent Assembly has acted in cahoots with the Supreme Court to supposedly violate the immunity of opposition lawmakers -- five of them on Tuesday alone.
"The constituent delegates only meet to lift the parliamentary immunity (of National Assembly deputies). Have you heard them meet on the problem of hunger, of corruption? What will the dictatorship do if they kidnap us all tomorrow? That will not solve any of those problems!” Guaido said Wednesday. “That will not solve the problem of water or electricity because they do not generate confidence in investors. The regime is finished but we will remain in session, we will hold the session in the Federal Legislative Palace”.