August 26, 2019
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Guaido: Venezuela's congress will meet on the street if necessary

Caracas, May 14 (efe-epa).- Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly will hold sessions on the street if necessary, speaker Juan Guaido said Tuesday after lawmakers were unable to meet amid a heavy police deployment in response to an alleged bomb threat.

"We will hold sessions, we will insist on reaching the Federal Palace (the seat of the assembly) and if we have to hold sessions ... on the street, we'll do it, but the Federal Palace belongs to the parliament, to the people of Venezuela, and we will not renounce it," he told a press conference.

Police, National Guard troops and officials from the Sebin intelligence service appeared early Tuesday at the National Assembly to investigate an ostensible bomb threat.

EFE saw the National Guard contingent establish a security perimeter around the Federal Palace and prevent anyone - including assembly members - from approaching the building.

Lawmakers ultimately decided to postpone the session until Wednesday.

President Nicolas Maduro's leftist government aims to "shut down the National Assembly," Guaido said, vowing defiance.

"They have the brute force, that is a fact, but we won't renounce the right Venezuelans have to use their space, they are two different things," the country's self-proclaimed acting head of state said.

"All that's left to him (Maduro) is to persecute, to harass, the revoke immunity (from opposition lawmakers)," Guaido said. "It is the path the regime chose."

At about the same that Guaido was speaking, the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) - a rival legislative body dominated by Maduro supporters - was voting to lift the immunity of five National Assembly members, bringing to 14 the number of opposition legislators facing arrest on offenses including conspiracy, rebellion and "instigation to insurrection."

The charges are based on the lawmakers' part in Guaido's attempt last week to rally the armed forces behind a bid to oust Maduro.

Guaido, who proclaimed himself acting president on Jan. 23, denouncing Maduro's May 2018 re-election as illegitimate, went April 30 to an airbase in Caracas to issue a call for the military to abandon the current government.

In his comments Tuesday, Guaido called on the international community to defend the National Assembly, noting that even countries such as Greece and Italy which decline to recognize his claim to be acting president have affirmed the legitimacy of the assembly.

One of the people charged with sedition, deputy assembly speaker Edgar Zambrano, was taken into custody last Wednesday, while some of the accused lawmakers have sought refuge at foreign embassies in Caracas.

Asked Tuesday about the possibility of a negotiated solution to Venezuela's political crisis, Guaido ruled out any talks not based on the premise of ending Maduro's "usurpation" of the presidency.

The United States is one of the more than 50 nations who have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim head of state. More than 120 other countries - including Russia, China, India and Japan - continue to acknowledge Maduro as president.

Over the weekend, Guaido said he had instructed his envoy in Washington to formally ask the US military for "cooperation" in ousting Maduro.

President Donald Trump has drastically increased existing US economic sanctions against oil-rich Venezuela and insists that "all options are on the table" in the standoff with the Maduro government.

gdl/dr

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