Venezuela army vows loyalty to President Maduro
Venezuela’s army has announced “absolute loyalty” to President Nicolas Maduro, amid a standoff between the socialist government and the opposition-controlled parliament, which is seeking to oust him.
General Vladimir Padrino, the defense minister and chief of armed forces, said on Thursday that the country’s military was resolute in its support for Maduro.
“The president is the highest authority of the state and we reiterate our absolute loyalty and unconditional support for him,” Padrino said.
This came after the center-right opposition laid claim to a majority in the parliament – the National Assembly – that would allow it to restrict the powers of Maduro.
The opposition also wants to use the mandate to remove Supreme Court judges, appoint key officials such as a new attorney general and a national comptroller, and even rewrite the constitution.
The portraits of former President Hugo Chavez were removed from the assembly building during the first regular legislative session on Wednesday.
Padrino criticized the removal of the photos, and so did the government, which vowed to fill the streets of the capital, Caracas, with the pictures of Chavez and Simon Bolivar, the country’s 19th-century independence icon.
Also on Thursday, the socialist government applied to the Supreme Court to nullify any legislation passed by the new assembly.
The government also said the opposition’s majority in the National Assembly is illegitimate as the assembly swore in three anti-government lawmakers who had earlier been barred from the parliament by the Supreme Court in an injunction sought by Maduro.
The move gave the opposition a super-majority in the legislative body.
“This is an illegal parliament and therefore its decisions are illegal and null. The decisions made in that circus they have set up should be ignored,” said Pedro Carreno, the deputy head of the ruling United Socialist Party.
Carreno also accused the opposition of plotting a coup against the socialist government.
The opposition United Democratic Roundtable won a victory over Maduro’s United Socialist Party in a December 2015 vote, and took control of the National Assembly for the first time since 1999, when Chavez had risen to power.
Newly-elected National Assembly Speaker Henry Ramos Allup has said he would find a way to have Maduro ousted within six months. Maduro’s presidential term will end in 2019.
The opposition accuses Maduro’s government of mismanaging the economy and leading the oil-rich country to poverty.