News / Americas

    Venezuela Opposition Congress Tries to Start Legislating

    Lawmakers attend the third National Assembly session in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 13, 2016.
    Lawmakers attend the third National Assembly session in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 13, 2016.
    Associated Press

    Venezuela's new opposition congress is finally getting down to the business of writing laws, but it's unclear whether the socialist-controlled courts and other institutions will enforce them.

    Opponents of the ruling socialist party stepped back from the brink of a showdown between the branches of power on Wednesday when they agreed to unseat three contested lawmakers.

    The Supreme Court had said those lawmakers could not be sworn in until officials had investigated claims that they engaged in voter fraud. The high court later said anything the legislature did would be null until the lawmakers were gone.

    Opposition leaders are calling the move a tactical retreat from an "institutional ambush'' and are starting to outline policy proposals. Chief among the initiatives are proposed legislation to give amnesty to jailed activists, a bill to give people in public housing the title to their homes, and a project to audit major institutions.

    "There are many Venezuelans who are temporarily behind bars. In the coming days, we are going to free them so that they can participate in the great development of our country,'' opposition lawmaker Richard Blanco said on the floor Thursday.

    But while the opposition has a strong mandate from its landslide victory in the Dec. 6 legislative elections, supporters of the revolution started by late President Hugo Chavez still control virtually every other institution.

    The socialist party enjoyed a 17-year winning streak in national elections, amassing near-total control over all major state institutions. But while the opposition congress may have a lot of power on paper, that power is still untested.

    Parliamentary President Henry Ramos swears in newly elected members of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 5, 2016.
    Parliamentary President Henry Ramos swears in newly elected members of the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 5, 2016.


    Congress president Henry Ramos says opposition leaders would have to find a way to legislate while being "besieged'' by the other branches of government.

    Sometimes you have to sacrifice some things to save others,'' he told television station Globovision Wednesday.

    Lawmakers started work Thursday on legislation that would free dozens of people imprisoned because of their participation in 2014 anti-government protests. Human rights groups consider these activists to be political prisoners, but the government says they precipitated violence that left dozens dead.

    Maduro has warned that he would "never accept'' an amnesty law, and outgoing congressional president Diosdado Cabello, who remains one of the socialist party's most powerful figures, repeated that sentiment last week.

    "They think they can make a law that allows murderers to pardon other murderers,'' he said.

    The opposition may have the votes needed to overturn a presidential veto, but it's far from certain that the courts loyal to the socialist party would uphold its will.

    Another sign of constitutional disarray: It's unclear whether the opposition, which won exactly two-thirds of congressional seats, will retain its crucial super-majority now that the three contested lawmakers are gone.

    Congressional leaders argue that they should keep their commanding majority because the overall size of congress is now smaller. Socialists say the calculation should still be made using the total capacity of congress, meaning that the opposition loses the super-majority as long as those seats remain empty.

    Even as the rank-and-file starts work, congressional leaders are eyeing the next institutional fight.

    They have convened a committee to start looking into alleged court packing and the rush appointment of 13 Supreme Court justices last month. That would be the first step toward replacing the justices, one of whom ran unsuccessfully in December as a congressional candidate with the socialist party.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    Locals say there are many entangled issues at the border that require clearheaded examination, not heated rhetoric

    Colombia Declares End to Zika Epidemic Inside Country

    Colombia has reported nearly 100,000 cases of infection, with 21 cases of Zika-related microcephaly

    Life on the Line in Venezuela as Economic Crisis Worsens

    As country's lines have grown longer and more dangerous, they have become not only the stage for everyday life, but a backdrop to death

    Colombian Drug Lord Gets 35 Years in US Prison

    Daniel Barrera, convicted of trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, also fined $10 million

    Projections: Zika Could Infect More Than 93 Million in Americas

    Experts say women who are infected with Zika during the early months of their pregnancy are at highest risk of giving birth to babies with microcephaly

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation