Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was violently blocked Sunday from presiding over a special session of congress where rivals tried to install a substitute in what was condemned as a hijacking of the country's last democratic institution, the AP reports. As a scuffle broke out with security forces in riot gear, the US-backed leader tried unsuccessfully to mount an iron fence surrounding the neo-classical palace where the opposition-controlled National Assembly was set to elect its leader for the final year of its 2015-2020 period. Inside, the situation was similarly rowdy, as a rival slate headed by lawmaker Luis Parra tried to swear themselves in as legislative leaders with the support of socialist deputies loyal to President Nicolás Maduro.
Lacking quorum, there was no vote for Parra, the opposition said. Guaidó's allies, who despite some defections still enjoy a comfortable majority in the 167-seat assembly, immediately denounced the impromptu session as invalid. "This is nothing more than another blow to our constitution," said Guaidó, whose blue suit was ripped during the chaotic fisticuffs. Still, state TV—a mouthpiece for Maduro—celebrated the initiative, raising the possibility of rival claims to the legislature's leadership in the days ahead, just as Guaidó a year ago asserted that he was Venezuela's interim president following Maduro's 2018 re-election following a campaign marred by irregularities. Guaidó said lawmakers would gather later Sunday at the headquarters of the country's sole opposition newspaper.
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