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Two parliaments vie for legitimacy in Venezuela as the US backs the right

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Issue 2568
Venezuelas president Nicolas Maduro meets members of its constituent assembly
Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro meets members of its constituent assembly (Pic: Prensa Presidencial)

Diplomats representing the US, Britain, Spain, Mexico and other countries rallied around the right wing opposition in Venezuela last Saturday.

Taking sides in a standoff between two parliaments, the US and its allies came closer than ever to declaring the left wing Venezuelan government illegitimate.

Coming barely a week after US president Donald Trump refused to rule out “the military option” on Venezuela, the implications could be deadly.

Venezuela’s constitution allows for two parliaments. There is the national assembly, a permanent body in which the right have had a majority since 2015.

Then there is the constituent assembly, elected last month with a mandate to rewrite the constitution. It is solidly held by the pro-government left since the right boycotted its election.

Four US-backed coups in Latin America—and two close shaves
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The constituent assembly took on the key powers of the national assembly on Friday of last week.

The supreme court had declared the national congress “in contempt” for swearing in MPs whose elections were under investigation.

The national assembly met in defiance of the government, inviting foreign diplomats to join its meeting in a show of support.

Its vice president Freddy Guevara declared it “a parliament in resistance against an armed military dictatorship”. He also said, “The Constituent Assembly is null.”

The US declared the transfer of powers “illegitimate”, a condemnation echoed by several Latin American states.

The right has no claim to represent democracy. Millions voted in the constituent assembly elections, which were legal under the very constitution the right now claims to defend.

Since their victory in 2015, right wing politicians have damaged their standing with disillusioned former government supporters by backing a violent street movement.

Right wing protests have stalled in recent weeks. The elevation of the constituent assembly gives president Nicolas Maduro leeway to legislate in response to Venezuela’s crisis.

Yet no constitutional trick can end the threat from the Venezuelan right and its imperialist backers, or the very real social and economic chaos they have seized on.

Workers need to organise against imperialism and in their own interests independently from Maduro.

As the two assemblies entrench their competing claims to be Venezuela’s true parliament, it opens the door to a potential military coup or US intervention. This would be a disaster.

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