HAVANA TIMES — The new Venezuelan National Assembly was installed today with a broad opposition majority for the first time in 16 years, with a commitment to seek the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and approve an amnesty for political prisoners.
The new president of the legislature, the Social Democrat Henry Ramos, reiterated in his inauguration speech the proposal to seek a legal formula to remove Maduro from office.
“It is an unchangeable proposal. What we want to change is a reality that over 17 years has done much harm to Venezuela,” Ramos said.
The swearing in of the new legislative ended 16 years of a pro-Chavez majority. The opposition now has 112 deputies linked to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), while the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) has 55 out of a total of 167 seats.
In the first act of the 2016-2021 legislature, the new Assembly elected as Ramos as its president, accompanied by also government opponents Enrique Marquez and Simon Calzadilla, as the first and second vice-chairpersons.
During his swearing-in, Ramos said the new parliament is open to dialogue with the government, but said the opposition will fulfill its campaign promise to pass an “amnesty law” to free detained opposition leaders and bring about a change of government in the next six months.
Ramos stressed that the proposal for a change of government will be presented to the country in six months and will be “a constitutional, peaceful and electoral solution,” referring to the figure of a referendum to revoke the presidential mandate.
Venezuela already tested such a referendum against the late president Hugo Chavez back in 2004, which was won by Chavez. The consultation was called after millions of signatures were collected by the opposition.
The Chavista minority abandoned the legislature claiming a rules violation by the new majority leadership.
Deputy Diosdado Cabello, the outgoing chair of the National Assembly, said the decision to withdraw from the opening session “is not a whim”, but instead a reply to a violation of rules by the new chair.
Cabello said the problem was that the opposition bloc decided to hold a parliamentary debate, when the opening session was supposed to be a purely protocol session and the election of the new leadership.