Opposition-controlled Venezuela parliament calls for protest to oust Maduro

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Venezuela’s side-lined opposition-controlled parliament called Friday for a mass protest against President Nicolas Maduro in a bid to oust the socialist leader in favour of “a transitional government.”

Maduro, 56, was sworn in for a second term on Thursday, having won a highly controversial election in May that was boycotted by the opposition and branded a fraud by the United States, European Union and Organisation of American States.

The National Assembly’s president Juan Guaido said the constitution gives parliament the right to assume transitional power after declaring Maduro a “usurper,” but said it would need military backing and for people to take to the streets to demand change.

“Is it enough to lean on the constitution in a dictatorship? No. It needs to be the people, the military and the international community that lead us to take over,” said Guaido, speaking to around 1,000 opposition supporters in Caracas.

Parliament pointedly announced the significant date of January 23 for its mass protest — the day in 1958 on which the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez fell.

The National Assembly has dismissed Maduro’s election as illegitimate, but parliament has been sidelined by the president’s power grab.

Having lost control of parliament in 2016, Maduro last year created a rival Constituent Assembly filled with loyalists while his allies at the Supreme Court annul every decision made by parliament.

His swearing in ceremony was even held at the Supreme Court rather than parliament.

The hand-picked successor to late strongman Hugo Chavez also has the backing of the military high command, which reiterated its “loyalty” to the president on both Wednesday and Thursday.

But as part of his call for the military to sever ties with Maduro, Guaido announced parliament would pass an amnesty law for military members imprisoned on conspiracy charges.

Mass protests demanding Maduro’s exit also erupted in 2014 and 2017, leaving around 200 dead and hundreds arrested.

Maduro is widely blamed for the country’s economic crisis, with basic food and medicine scarce and hyperinflation estimated to reach 10 million per cent in 2019, according to the IMF.

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