Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus Elections Cooking 🔵 Covid Classroom Families Core values Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption Jorge Rodriguez holds his hand up to swear-in lawmakers after he was sworn-in as president of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, next to First Vice President of Congress Iris Varela, left, and Second Vice President Didalco Bolivar. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Nicolas Maduro was set to extend his grip on power Tuesday as the ruling Socialist Party prepared to assume the leadership of Venezuela's congress, the last institution in the country it didn't already control.

Maduro's allies swept legislative elections last month boycotted by the opposition and denounced as a sham by the U.S., the European Union and several other foreign governments. While the vote was marred by anemically low turnout, it nonetheless seemed to relegate into irrelevancy the U.S.-backed opposition led by 37-year-old lawmaker Juan Guaido.

Exactly a year ago, Guaido tried to scale a spiked iron fence to get past a group of riot police blocking him from attending the parliament's inaugural session, which according to the constitution must be held every year on Jan. 5.

Guaido was expected to meet Tuesday via Zoom with a cohort of opposition leaders for their own virtual parliamentary session.

Last month, anti-Maduro lawmakers, several dozen of them from exile, also gathered online to extend their mandate stemming from a landslide victory in 2015 for another 12 months, operating through an adjunct committee normally reserved for legislative recesses.

Supreme Court justices loyal to Maduro immediately struck down the law as invalid. But that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from doubling down in its support of Guaido.

"The national parliament will not be detained until there are free elections in Venezuela," Guaido said on Twitter recently.

While Guaido hasn't wavered, the opposition's political fortunes have tanked as Venezuelans' hopes for change have collapsed.

Meanwhile, Maduro has managed to retain a solid grip on power and the military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes.

Gaby Arellano, a lawmaker exiled in Colombia, said that many in the opposition underestimated Maduro, thinking he stood no chance in a doomsday economic environment marked by hyperinflation, miles-long lines for gasoline and pulverized wages adding up to a few pennies per month.

But he's managed to outmaneuver his foes through a mix of repression and co-optation exacerbated by the opposition's own missteps, Arellano said. She expects a new round of repression now that Maduro has seized congress. On Tuesday, Guaido blasted on Twitter photos of what he said were security forces surrounding his apartment building in Caracas.

Reflecting that lack of unity, a few lawmakers still inside Venezuela -- including Guaido's former deputy as National Assembly vice president -- signaled they would no longer lay claim to their seats.

"We're at the start of what looks like a very dark, new phase," said Arellano.

With Maduro easily boxing out the opposition, his biggest threat may come from within his own coalition.

To reward loyal allies and paper over tensions between hardline ideologues and moderates within the Bolivarian revolution, the makeup of the legislature was expanded by 100 seats. He also leaned on high-profile candidates, including First Lady Cilia Flores, in an ultimately futile attempt to boost turnout, which in the end was 30% -- less than half of what it was in the 2015 election, which gave control of congress to the opposition.

The new congress will be headed by Maduro's former chief of staff, Jorge Rodriguez, who in the past led internationally-sponsored talks with the opposition as well as met with envoys from the Trump administration. Socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello, who is widely seen as the second most-powerful man in Venezuela, will lead the socialist party bloc.

Incoming parliamentary members carry images of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, center, and independence hero Simon Bolivar, to move them from the chamber of the Constitutional Assembly to the chamber of the National Assembly, as the ruling socialist party prepares to assume the leadership of Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Ruling party allies swept legislative elections last month boycotted by the opposition. Holding the portraits are, from right, First Lady Cilia Flores, Diosdado Cabello, president of the Constitutional Assembly, Jorge Rodriguez, the newly elected National Assembly president, and Iris Varela, first vice president of Congress. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Incoming parliamentary members carry images of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, center, and independence hero Simon Bolivar, to move them from the chamber of the Constitutional Assembly to the chamber of the National Assembly, as the ruling socialist party prepares to assume the leadership of Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Ruling party allies swept legislative elections last month boycotted by the opposition. Holding the portraits are, from right, First Lady Cilia Flores, Diosdado Cabello, president of the Constitutional Assembly, Jorge Rodriguez, the newly elected National Assembly president, and Iris Varela, first vice president of Congress. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Jorge Rodriguez, right, lifts his fist after being sworn-in as president of the National Assembly, in front of a photo of late President Hugo Chavez, at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Jorge Rodriguez, right, lifts his fist after being sworn-in as president of the National Assembly, in front of a photo of late President Hugo Chavez, at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
First Lady Cilia Flores, center, and Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello, left, carry a portrait of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez into the chamber of the National Assembly as the ruling socialist party prepares to assume the leadership of Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Ruling party allies swept legislative elections last month boycotted by the opposition. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
First Lady Cilia Flores, center, and Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello, left, carry a portrait of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez into the chamber of the National Assembly as the ruling socialist party prepares to assume the leadership of Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Ruling party allies swept legislative elections last month boycotted by the opposition. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
New National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez addresses newly sworn-in lawmakers at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
New National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez addresses newly sworn-in lawmakers at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A government supporter Julia Mercedes Gutierrez holds photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a small version of the national constitution outside the National Assembly where lawmakers are being sworn-in, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A government supporter Julia Mercedes Gutierrez holds photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a small version of the national constitution outside the National Assembly where lawmakers are being sworn-in, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Seen through a balcony gate, the new president of Venezuela's National Assembly Jorge Rodriguez addresses newly sworn-in lawmakers as he is surrounded by photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and independence hero Simon Bolivar at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Seen through a balcony gate, the new president of Venezuela's National Assembly Jorge Rodriguez addresses newly sworn-in lawmakers as he is surrounded by photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and independence hero Simon Bolivar at Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Government supporters, one with photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and independence hero Simon Bolivar with the Spanish message "We're back," stand outside the National Assembly where lawmakers are being sworn-in, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Government supporters, one with photos of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and independence hero Simon Bolivar with the Spanish message "We're back," stand outside the National Assembly where lawmakers are being sworn-in, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Incoming lawmakers members fill the chamber of the National Assembly during the year's first session in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Incoming lawmakers members fill the chamber of the National Assembly during the year's first session in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The ruling socialist party assumed the leadership of Venezuela's congress on Tuesday, the last institution in the country it didn't already control. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A government supporter known as "Caperucita," or Little Red Riding Hood, holds a photo of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as she looks for something in her purse in Plaza Bolivar, near the National Assembly where newly elected National Assembly lawmakers will be sworn-in and hold their first session of the year in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A government supporter known as "Caperucita," or Little Red Riding Hood, holds a photo of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as she looks for something in her purse in Plaza Bolivar, near the National Assembly where newly elected National Assembly lawmakers will be sworn-in and hold their first session of the year in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT