Venezuela: Chavistas Storm National Assembly in Protest at Impeachment Attempt

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas

Caracas, October 23rd 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Violence erupted at Venezuela’s legislature on Sunday, after crowds of government supporters stormed past security in protest at what they are calling an impeachment attempt against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

Earlier that day, opposition lawmakers signed a document declaring a “rupture” of Venezuela’s constitutional order and accusing Maduro of “abandoning the constitutional functions” of his presidency. The statement, which was released as Maduro touched down in Saudi Arabia for top level oil negotiations, also appeals to the international community to apply “mechanisms to guarantee the Venezuelan people’s rights”.

The opposition-held National Assembly called Sunday’s extraordinary parliamentary session after the National Electoral Council temporarily halted their attempts to proceed with a recall referendum against Maduro due to fraudulent activity in the initial signature collection stage. The suspension unleashed calls for protests from the opposition coalition MUD, which had pegged its hopes for removing Maduro on the referendum.

“If we have to surround Miraflores to make Maduro leave then we will do it,” declared hardline legislator for the rightwing Popular Will party, Freddy Guevara, as he addressed parliament on Sunday.

But the move was immediately met with anger from pro-government supporters, who spontaneously began to gather at the entrance of parliament as news of the session spread. They labeled the opposition’s actions a thinly veiled attempt to stoke conditions for foreign intervention and impeach Maduro during his absence from the country.

In scenes that have been circulated in social media and press throughout the country, hundreds of government supporters pushed past National Assembly security, yelling, “The people, united, will never be defeated” before making their way to the main chamber.

Although they were eventually convinced to leave peacefully by government legislators, several supporters had to receive medical attention following the altercation with opposition legislators inside.

The popular Chavista journalist Oswaldo Rivero was later treated for a head wound, after a chair was allegedly thrown at him from the upper balcony of the National Assembly.

The Chavista show of force comes just three days before an opposition planned “takeover” of Venezuela and on the heels of a small opposition women’s demonstration in Caracas on Saturday.

In comments on Twitter following Sunday’s events, former opposition presidential candidate and member of the Justice First party, Henrique Capriles Radonski, said the opposition “would not rule out” a retaliatory march on the Miraflores presidential palace this coming Wednesday.

“We will go where we have to go,” he tweeted.

Opposition lawmakers have also convened another extraordinary parliamentary session this coming Tuesday to “begin the process of determining the constitutional situation of the Presidency of the Republic”.

Meanwhile Chavista supporters have called for the defence of the revolution against opposition attempts to unseat the president. They warn that the MUD is attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Brazilian senate, which moved to impeach former president, Dilma Rousseff, and remove her from office earlier this year.

In 2002, political tensions between leftwing and rightwing forces in Venezuela culminated in a short-lived coup against then-president Hugo Chavez, during which the opposition disbanded parliament and annulled the constitution.

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