Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has proposed holding early elections to restock the National Assembly, currently headed by opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, who is backed by the US.
Maduro made this call in a speech in Caracas on Monday. He also talked about an early election in February of this year. If elections are not held beforehand, Venezuelans will vote on the makeup of the National Assembly next year as scheduled.
In 2017, the body saw its powers somewhat limited after the establishment of the Constituent Assembly, with the latter being entirely staffed with Maduro loyalists. The two legislatures have functioned in parallel since.
A broad coalition of opposition parties currently holds 109 seats in the assembly, while parties loyal to Maduro hold 55. There are a total of 167 seats in the house.
Maduro’s announcement comes on the anniversary of his reelection to the Latin American country’s presidency last year. Guaido, along with the United States, has called the election “illegitimate.”
If defeated at the ballot box, Guaido would lose his claim to legitimate power. Despite Washington’s backing, Guaido’s efforts to mobilize popular anger and oust Maduro have thus far failed, and the Venezuelan president still commands the support of the country’s military and remains safely in power.
Venezuela remains economically blockaded by the United States, following several rounds of harsh sanctions. Sanctions targeting the country’s oil industry have exacerbated the country’s economic crisis, and have dealt “serious economic damage and suffering” to the Venezuelan people, the country’s oil minister said on Sunday.
With the power struggle between Guaido and Maduro still in a stalemate, opposition envoy to the US Carlos Vecchio said he met with Pentagon and State Department officials in Washington on Monday to discuss “all aspects” of the crisis in Venezuela.
Vecchio said that the talks had been “very positive,” but offered no further information. In Washington, the official line remains that “all options are on the table” when it comes to potential intervention in the crisis.