Venezuelan lawmakers fight in National Assembly


Thu, May 02, 2013 - Page 6

Venezuela’s post-election tensions erupted into a brawl between lawmakers on Tuesday night that left at least one opposition member badly bruised and bleeding.

Pro-government legislators started throwing punches after members of the opposition coalition unfurled a banner in the National Assembly protesting a post-election ban stripping opposition lawmakers of most of their legislative powers, opposition lawmaker Ismael Garcia said.

Video footage showed groups of legislators shoving and pushing each other on the floor.

Assembly member Julio Borges appeared on an independent TV station soon after Tuesday night’s brawl with blood running down one side of his swollen face. The opposition said at least 17 of its allies and five pro-government deputies were injured.

Pro-government legislators appeared on state TV accusing opposition members of attacking them.

The opposition has refused to accept Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow April 14 victory, saying the government’s 1.49 percent margin resulted from fraud, like votes cast in the names of the thousands of dead people found on current voting rolls.

In retaliation, the government-dominated assembly has barred opposition lawmakers from public speaking and sitting on legislative committees. Tuesday’s fight was the second in which opposition legislators said the other side attacked them for protesting the ban.

Both sides planned to take to the streets yesterday in different parts of the capital for marches celebrating International Workers’ Day. Both appeared to be trying to avoid confrontation by choosing separate locations and calling for peaceful demonstrations, although fears of violence were running high.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is boycotting an audit of the election and plans to file a challenge seeking to overturn it in court.

National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello has barred opposition lawmakers from speaking until they public recognize Maduro’s victory.

On Tuesday, legislator Pedro Carreno, head of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela in the National Assembly, asked for an extension of the ban on public speaking by the opposition, whose members unfurled a banner reading “coup against the parliament.”

“Without a word, like cowards, they came at us from behind,” said Garcia, the opposition lawmaker.

Garcia said state television, which alone has the right to broadcast from inside the National Assembly, cut its transmission when the fight erupted.

Maduro accused the opposition of provoking the violence, which he condemned and called on the country to work out its disputes peacefully.