Skip to main content

A deputy of Venezuela's National Assembly holds a sign that reads ‘Maduro Dictator’ during a meeting of the opposition-led congress in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. During a four-hour extraordinary session in Caracas, which was interrupted for about 30 minutes after government supporters breached security and threatened lawmakers on the National Assembly floor, Congress approved a series of actions in response to last week's decision suspending a referendum process to recall President Nicolas Maduro.

Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

Venezuela's Congress on Sunday declared that the government had staged a coup by blocking a drive to recall President Nicolas Maduro in a raucous legislative session that was interrupted when his supporters stormed the chamber.

Opposition lawmakers vowed to put Maduro on trial after a court friendly to his socialist administration on Thursday suspended their campaign to collect signatures to hold a referendum on removing the deeply-unpopular president.

Lawmaker Julio Borges said the opposition-led congress is now in open rebellion after a majority of its members voted that the decision constituted a coup with government participation.

Story continues below advertisement

"We will bring a political trial against President Nicolas Maduro to get to the bottom of his role in the break with democracy and human rights here," Borges said.

A day of fiery speeches was briefly thrown into chaos when dozens of red-shirted protesters who had been heckling opposition lawmakers outside the capitol burst onto the floor. Lawmakers ran out of the path of protesters who chanted: "Congress will fall!"

It was not immediately clear how the protesters entered the heavily guarded building, which has been under the opposition's control since it won legislative elections in a landslide in December. The protesters began to file out of the building after Socialist party leader Jorge Rodriguez called on them to leave, leading the opposition to charge that Rodriguez was directing the protest.

Opposition spokesman Jesus Torrealba said the protest on the floor was a perfect illustration of the opposition's complaint that democracy has been suspended in the oil country.

"The fact that lawmakers elected by 7.5 million people were silenced by 300 thugs sums up the situation better than any speech could," he said.

Legislators also proposed efforts to replace national elections officials and Supreme Court judges.

Amid severe shortages and the world's highest inflation, polls suggest as much as 80 per cent of voters want Maduro gone this year.

Story continues below advertisement

A push to take legal action against the president would throw the country further into a constitutional crisis, but would probably not prevail because the administration controls the courts and other major institutions.

The opposition is hobbled because it has been unable to make alliances with anyone in the ruling socialist party, according to Amherst College Political Science professor Javier Corrales.

"It's important because in other constitutional crises elsewhere in Latin America, the behaviour of the ruling party was crucial," he said.

Last week's ruling suspending the recall vote because of alleged fraud in an earlier stage of signature-collection drew condemnation from the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States.

On Sunday, congress approved a resolution officially asking the international community to step in to "protect the people's right to democracy by any means necessary."

Opposition leaders are also pledging to build pressure in the streets, starting with a nationwide protest on Wednesday dubbed "the taking of Venezuela."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter