Venezuelan opposition lawmakers allowed into congress

Venezuelan opposition lawmakers allowed into congress

CARACAS-Agence France-Presse
Venezuelan opposition lawmakers allowed into congress

Lawmakers entered congress on May 15, a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido accused Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's government of trying to "gag" the legislature after it was blocked by security forces.

"Here we are in session, facing the people," said Guaido when opening the day's proceedings at the Federal Palace building that houses the National Assembly -- the only government branch under opposition control.

SEBIN security agents and the National Guard, which provides security for the building, had prevented lawmakers from entering on May 14.

It was the latest move in a series of measures taken by the Maduro regime against opposition lawmakers since Guaido's failed April 30 uprising.

Venezuela has been in political turmoil since assembly speaker Guaido declared himself acting president in January in a direct challenge to Maduro's authority.

"The (only) option in Venezuela is to struggle, to keep going ... and here is your parliament to accompany you and get out of this crisis," said Guaido in a speech transmitted on twitter.

The session on May 14 was meant to discuss government measures taken against National Assembly lawmakers, which was instead on Wednesday's program.

The Constituent Assembly, set up by Maduro to replace the sidelined National Assembly, has stripped a dozen opposition lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity.

The Supreme Court has likewise charged 14 deputies with involvement in the failed uprising, in which Guaido was joined by around 30 members of the armed forces in a revolt that quickly fizzled out. It did, however, spark two days of deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.

The U.S. government suspended all passenger and cargo air services to Venezuela on May 15, citing reports of civil unrest in and around its airports.

Of the lawmakers singled out by authorities, deputy assembly speaker Edgar Zambrano was arrested by SEBIN agents last week. Another fled to neighboring Colombia, four more sought refuge in diplomatic compounds while yet another said he was hiding inside Venezuela.               

Earlier in the day, the National Assembly speaker's press team had shared a video of a smiling Guaido entering the congress building alongside other lawmakers.

Diosdado Cabello, head of the Constituent Assembly, justified May 14's intervention by claiming there was a bomb threat in the building.

Guaido accused the security forces of using "brute force" and said the building was "occupied militarily."        

While deputies were allowed in on May 15, the National Guard prevented the press from entering, something that has happened before.

A line of uniformed officers carrying shields were stationed outside the entrance to the legislature.