Jan 5, 2020

Maduro attempts to seize power of Venezuelan legislature

Juan guiado climbing over a fence

Juan Guaidó climbs a railing in an attempt to reach the National Assembly building in Caracas, Jan. 5. Photo: Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images

Venezuela’s government disrupted a National Assembly leadership election on Sunday, with security forces forcibly blocking opposition leader Juan Guaidó — who is recognized by the U.S. and nearly 60 other countries as the legitimate president — from entering the chamber so it could swear in a candidate loyal to President Nicolás Maduro.

Why it matters: Guaidó’s international legitimacy rests on the fact that, as assembly president, he is Venezuela’s highest-ranking official to have been democratically elected. Sunday's events could muddy those waters and further strengthen Maduro’s hold on power. 

The big picture: The hope that desperate Venezuelans placed in Guaidó after he proclaimed himself president last January has gradually faded, particularly after an audacious attempt to seize power failed in April.

  • Today, Maduro pressed his advantage. The move followed allegations that Maduro was attempting to use bribery to fix the vote. 
  • The opposition could struggle to regroup now after apparently losing control of what had been the last government institution not controlled by Maduro’s autocratic regime. 

Flashback: Asked last month by Axios about this scenario — in which a Maduro loyalist claimed the assembly presidency by dubious means — Colombia’s ambassador to Washington shook his head: “We don't even want to think about that.”

Go deeper: Venezuela's Maduro survives 2019

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