A new stage of institutional shock will begin in Venezuela on January 5, 2021. That day the 277 deputies will be sworn in – almost entirely members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the ruling party – chosen on December 6 in elections plagued with irregularities , with an abstention of 70%, and rejected by most of the Venezuelan opposition and the international community.
An injury time will also begin for the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been at the forefront of the fight for two years to push the exit of the Nicolás Maduro regime and who now seeks to play the card of the continuity of his mandate and of the Parliament that he presides. to continue trying a political transition in Venezuela .
This Saturday, in a virtual session, Parliament approved the modification of the Law of the Statute of the Democratic Transition, which will extend the operation of the current National Assembly for another year, which the opposition to Maduro won in 2015 and whose majority allowed Guaidó to proclaim himself as president in charge on January 23, 2019 .
The opposition’s goal is to keep Parliament under its control until “free, fair and verifiable parliamentary and presidential elections” are held.
The step taken by the opposition muddies the waters of an institutional framework in which powers overlap – now all with some degree of origin failure – amid the authoritarian drift and the deep humanitarian crisis that the country is experiencing.
Until this year, the opposition-controlled National Assembly was the only public power internationally recognized and elected in moderately competitive elections.
The legitimacy of Guaidó’s interim term has two anchors: that Parliament, which would come to an end in two weeks according to the Constitution, and the re-election of Maduro for six more years in the May 2018 elections , which were accused of fraud and rejected by the international community.
In 2017 Maduro created a parallel Parliament, the so-called National Constituent Assembly, to boycott the chamber that was adverse to him. Dominated by Chavismo, the National Constituent Assembly unsuccessfully proposed to replace the elected parliament in 2015 to endorse, for example, contracts with international partners at a time of economic asphyxiation.
The Supreme Court, the Prosecutor’s Office and the electoral body have been controlled by Chavismo for more than a decade.
Now, after the elections at the beginning of this month, Maduro turns the page of these five years of struggle and takes control of all the institutions, even with the international rejection that overshadows the process and the accusations of crimes against humanity made.
From the United Nations and the Office of the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, Guaidó rehearses extra time with this reform.
Within the opposition there are also setbacks on the path that Guaidó is taking, which is advancing without a unanimous consensus. In this Saturday’s session, the Democratic Action party saved its vote in the discussion, although it reiterated its support for the head of the Assembly and the interim government.
The deputy Piero Maroun spoke for his organization and pointed out that, given the generalized rejection of the elections on December 6, the administrative continuity of Parliament is tacit. “There have been no parliamentary elections, therefore the transitional law and this Parliament are in full force,” said Maroun.
The reforms that Guaidó has promoted establish that in this extraordinary period the functions will be in charge of the Delegate Commission, a reduced version of Parliament, made up of the board of directors and the presidents of the permanent commissions that, according to the Constitution, are in charge of maintain the operation of the institution during the annual breaks.
This is the point of objection made by Acción Democrática, who considered that the entire legislative body should meet and not just that commission. The opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski has also raised serious criticism of this approach.
In August, he tried, without success, to negotiate with the Maduro government for better conditions to participate in the legislative elections.
This extra time represents a setback to the route that Guaidó proposed two years ago. The cessation of the usurpation, the transitional government and the free elections, postulates that he repeated like a mantra, have been limited after his failure to try to move the Armed Forces to provoke the overthrow of Maduro.
The road now begins at the end in this exceptional regime that he has proposed for the administrative continuity of his mandate.
The reform of the law also establishes a reorganization of the interim presidency. One of the fundamental changes will be the repeal of the Government Center, commanded by the opposition and political express Leopoldo López since August 2019 , after he managed to escape from house arrest during the failed military uprising on April 30 and took refuge in the house from the ambassador of Spain, where he stayed until a few weeks ago he fled into exile .
A Political Council will assume these coordination tasks, but its structure and norms will be dictated after January 5, 2021.
Guaidó is playing the support of the international community on the weak legal basis of the extension of the mandate of Parliament and, by extension, of his interim government. The recognition given to this new figure will also depend on the management of funds and resources of the Venezuelan State abroad, which Parliament has managed to control.
Guaidó’s international board – which so far has managed to maintain the support of some 60 democracies – could change with the setback of Donald Trump in the United States elections , who came to appear as the main ally of the Venezuelan opposition.
The South American country awaits the position of the president-elect, Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20. Brussels, for its part, has been given this month to seek consensus among the members of the European Union before the new Venezuelan panorama and will make a statement on January 5.