Venezuelan congress passes transition law, Russia repeats support for Maduro


Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) - or Parliament - with its overwhelming opposition majority, on Tuesday approved a law that will govern an eventual political transition in the country and will enter into force once elected President Nicolas Maduro , whom the AN does not recognize, leaves power.

The measure - called the Statute Governing the Transition to Democracy and the Reestablishment of the Constitution - was approved by lawmakers and sets forth, among other things, the duration of a transition government and its political and economic responsibilities.

The text of the law establishes that national elections will be called within 12 months of the installation of the transition government and must completely renew all elected officials within the public branches of government, including the electoral authorities, to make the call for elections effective.

In addition, the law tasks Parliament with ensuring “the effective exercise of the rights to free nomination to popularly elected posts and suffrage,” a clear allusion to the lifting of the political disqualification of several opposition leaders, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

Also, it authorizes officials to draft laws to attend to the “humanitarian emergency” that the anti-Chavista forces assert prevails in Venezuela and to promote the recovery of the country’s economy, which the AN says has contracted by more than 50 percent since 2013.

In Caracas, however, the head of the government-supporting National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela (ANC), Diosdado Cabello, on Tuesday named a commission to consult with the public with an eye toward holding parliamentary elections to replace the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN).

“A constitutional commission (is designated) for the consultation ... on the parliamentary elections. This (was done) quickly, and (the consultation) has to be very fast, too. The only branch that is established in the Constitution that has not been recertified by this ANC is the legislative branch,” Cabello said in a parliamentary session.

Maduro had said on Sunday that the ANC was seeing to “move up” the parliamentary elections scheduled for this year with an eye toward dealing with the “crisis” he says exists in the “bourgeoisie legislature” and he announced that he supports this idea.

Guaido, in turn, said that such a move would be “political suicide.”

Legislative elections in Venezuela, according to the Constitution, are held every five years, and this would mean that they should be held in December 2019.

The commission will be headed by Dario Vivas, one of the most radical Chavistas, who currently presides over the Citizen Participation Committee.

Russia and Turkey on Tuesday reiterated their support for Venezuela’s increasingly-cornered Maduro and leveled criticism against a host of European Union nations who recognized an opposition leader as caretaker president of the crisis-struck nation while international pressure for early elections continued to build.

Bulgaria became the 20th EU government to declare its support for Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s parliament who, having first secured assurances of support from Washington, directly challenged Maduro by taking oath as interim Venezuelan president on Jan. 23. Russia, one of Maduro’s principal creditors, and Turkey have been vociferous in their opposition to the EU’s diplomatic shift.

“Look at the EU, they are always saying democracy, democracy, democracy; ballots, ballots, ballots,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his AKP party in a televised speech. “And then they try to topple a government. We do not accept a world where the powerful are righteous, but we accept a world where the righteous is powerful. We are against imperialist structures,” he continued.

Spain, Portugal, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Holland, France, Hungary, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Sweden and Croatia have declared their recognition of Guaido, a decision that came after Maduro failed to comply with an ultimatum from several EU members to call a snap presidential election.

“We see the situation as alarming,” Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told university students during a visit to the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. “It is the result of a gross violation of the principle of non-interference with the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, told press in Moscow that, by recognizing Guaido, EU countries were, in fact, hindering a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the arrival of humanitarian aid for Venezuelans, announced by Guaido is being anxiously awaited by those who daily cross the Simon Bolivar International Bridge.

This bridge, which connects Cucuta with San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, is crossed every day by some 35,000 Venezuelans seeking the minimum amount of food and medicines they need to survive.

And with Guaido’s announcement that Cucuta will be one of the three supply centers for humanitarian assistance, expectations are growing among the mass of pedestrians crossing this bridge and the other border crossing, the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge, which communicates Cucuta with Ureña in Venezuela.

Luis Carrero, for example, is a 47-year-old teacher who crosses the border once a week to buy medicines for his mother who suffers from cancer and who is now hopeful of getting the medication she has been missing.

“My mother suffers from breast cancer and unfortunately in our country the medication is non-existent,” he told EFE.

Carrero said that incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “tries to look” stronger than he is, like when he vowed that no humanitarian aid was going to enter the country because Venezuelans “are not beggars.”

The teacher added hopefully “that when the humanitarian aid is allowed into the country, it is the Venezuelan people who will watch over it, accompany it and make sure it is distributed in the right places.”

And in Argentina social organizations, unions and leftist political groups on Tuesday marched to the US Embassy in Buenos Aires to protest what they called Washington’s “interference” in Venezuela.

About 500 people gathered at the doors of the University of Buenos Aires Law School and then marched some three kilometers (about two miles) to the US diplomatic mission.

Along the way, about 100 of the demonstrators staged incidents with police, when the latter tried to cut off the column of marchers.

“The motive for the mobilization is to repudiate the foreign intervention of the United States and its allies in the life of a brother country like Venezuela,” Hugo Belon, the organizational secretary of the State Workers Association (ATE) in the capital told EFE.

The union leader emphasized that involving themselves in the Venezuelan conflict are “countries that show that they are in line with its history, like Bolivia and Uruguay, and who are trying to find a solution (to the crisis) via dialogue.”

“And there are other countries where the only thing that’s clear is that they’re puppets of the United States and that they follow what the Yankee government says and it doesn’t matter to them if there’s a bloodbath in Venezuela,” he added.

The protesters rejected Washington’s decision to recognize the president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as that country’s interim president.

Among the countries that have recognized Guaido as president are Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, the US and about 20 members of the European Union.